Anthrocide is the official website for D.L. Hamilton, author of several Christian novels and essays.

Four ‘Seeds in the Big Apple (Part 3)

Before I continue my narrative, a few words about New York City drivers. First there is the rumor that they drive less with turn signals than with their horns. This is true. Most vehicles in downtown (or even uptown—there is a distinction) Manhattan are taxis. They honk their horns frequently for two basic reasons which I observed first hand. The first reason is illustrated by the following. Our tour bus was at a stoplight on a 4-lane one-way street. In the lane beside us was a row of taxicabs. Exactly one nanosecond after the light turned green, the cab that was fourth in line honked for the line to get moving. I have no explanation for that behavior except that it is New York. To describe the second reason for honking horns I must provide what I observed to be the philosophy of driving in Manhattan, which is: If I am directly beside you in my lane and wish to be in front of you in your lane, I simply go there. It is your problem whether there is room for me to do so or whether you run into me or not. With that said I provide the next illustration. Again, our tour bus was at a stoplight on a 4-lane one-way street. At the instant the light turned green, a cab in the second lane from the left turned left in front of the cab in the first lane. Not to be outdone, a cab in the far right lane also then turned left across in front of all the other lanes, giving a little thank-you wave as he did so. In return there was a cacophony of honking horns and, I would have to admit, justifiably so. Cars, cabs, and buses zip and slither in front of each other willy-nilly in a random pattern of turns and lane changes. Do accidents occur? Certainly. In fact, our tour bus bumped into the back of an SUV at one point, to the surprise of no one. What was a tad surprising was that a cop who happened to be near by took a quick look at the situation, told the SUV the damage was insignificant, and then told both SUV and bus to move on. Read more

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Four ‘Seeds in the Big Apple (Part 2)

On Saturday we headed to New Jersey which would be our home base for our excursions in NYC. Although it was too early for check-in at the hotel in Edison, New Jersey, we wanted to go there first to sort of get our bearings and take whatever transportation to NYC was nearby. The hotel was a Comfort Inn that we could see on the left side as we drove down the multi-lane street past it but since the street had a tall cement divider and allowed no left or U-turns we could not get there. Matilda would tell us to turn right now and again but that made little sense (rather like Columbus sailing west to get to the east). After a mile or two we took her advice at a street with a sign pointing right that read “All Turns.” What one did was turn right and immediately swing around an island to the left, went over an overpass and then navigate onto the desired road going the desired direction. This did not bode well for us finding our way around.

Rick had heard somewhere that one could take a subway into New York City from nearby locations in New Jersey but if that is true we never found it. One thing we were sure of is that we did not want to drive in New York. Now that we’ve been there that was truly one of the most intelligent decisions of the whole trip. The hotel clerk told Rick he could go two stoplights down, turn right and take a commuter train into NYC (this was on Saturday). Despite Matilda’s protests Rick followed the clerk’s directions and we wandered around in a residential area for a while before realizing that he should have said three stoplights down. Anyway we parked at the New Jersey Transit station in a numbered place. A sign saying “Pay for Parking” pointed to a machine that had Rick put in our space number and $4. The question was, did we need to put a receipt or something in our car window since we were warned that unpaid parkers would be towed? Inside the station the person running the little snack kiosk, when Rick asked that question, curtly replied that she had no answers. Period. We shrugged and set about buying tickets for the trip into NYC. Penn Station, New York City, was the final stop, so we had the right train. But unlike some low-cost subway ride, the fare was $12.50. Each. One-way. If you do the math that means $50 per couple round trip. Oh well, this was a once in a lifetime event, so we bought the tickets. A train arrived promptly and the ride in was quite comfortable. In about 50 minutes we arrived at Penn Station beneath the streets of New York City. Read more


Four ‘Seeds in the Big Apple (Part 1)

“I don’t like it that there’s nobody else down here.” In a city of over 8,000,000 people, for there to be just the four of us Missouri hayseeds alone on an underground commuter train platform—which supposedly in a few minutes would have a train bound for New Jersey—I agreed with Glenda. I didn’t like it either. Apparently we were, once again, lost beneath Manhattan (sounds like a movie title, huh?).

But that was near the end of our journey. Let me go back to the beginning. For their 35th wedding anniversary, Rick (Becki’s brother) and Glenda decided to go to Philadelphia and New York City and invited Becki and I along. The trip started well as we got to the St. Louis airport in plenty of time to go through the madness of TSA security screening. Just a quick side note: I not only understand that people need to be screened before they fly, I actually endorse it. I feel much more comfortable knowing that at least some effort has been made to avoid my flight being involved in some terrorist activity. However, I imagine that for every person who has even a remote possibility of doing something dastardly, there are probably 10 million who simply want to travel to their destination safely and peacefully. Hence, I believe that airports should do everything they can to make the whole necessary security screening thing as hassle-free as possible. St. Louis airport apparently missed the memo. It’s bad enough that one has to practically undress (belts, shoes, jackets, hats, etc.) but in St. Louis, once you’re through, there is not even the convenience of a set of seats to sit down and re-collect oneself. So I found myself groveling on the open floor trying to get my shoes back on. I could go on but I’ll let that suffice.

Becki doesn’t like heights. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing can come of the story I am going to relate. When we first met 40+ years ago heights were something she neither relished nor avoided. I am told that as most people reach their mid-30s they begin to experience trepidation about heights and that is certainly true of me. Where I used to casually walk around on rooftops helping my dad install TV antennas years ago, nowadays putting the Christmas lights along the eaves each year finds me inching along on my belly trying to install them by Braille so I won’t have to look over the edge. But Becki’s dislike of heights has begun to approach the phobia stage and it includes everything from standing on a ladder to flying in an airplane. That said, she deserves a medal for being such an awesome little trooper throughout the trip. Since I have arachnophobia myself I truly appreciate her bravery.

The flight was packed and, as happens so often, a small man (shorter than me, even, I think) was trying to put a huge carry-on that apparently contained an anvil and three bowling balls into a too-small space in the overhead bin above Becki’s head. He got overbalanced and several passengers had to catch him in the aisle. Mercifully he managed to get the bag stowed on the third try without conking Becki on the head. The flight started fine with the pilot bragging about the beautiful clear evening, but the weather reports we had seen said it was raining in Philadelphia. Halfway through the flight we reached the bad weather and the plane turned into a roller coaster, much to Becki’s dismay. The fingernail prints in my arm are starting to recede now, so I think I’ll be okay.

The hotel in Philly was fine and we started out early the next morning in a drizzle on the Philadelphia phase of our adventure. We ate at a Denny’s and were reminded why we no longer have one in Jeff. Our waitress went out of her way to ignore us throughout the meal but the food was okay so off we went. We first visited the Liberty Bell which had a team of some half-dozen security screeners inspecting bags and having us open our jackets. I had seen the bell once before many years ago but the others hadn’t and the girls both said they had expected it to be larger. To which I had to add, “Not quite what it’s cracked-up to be, eh?” Next we took a tour of Independence Hall by a middle-aged male tour guide with a long pony tail who spoke loudly enough to be heard in Pittsburgh. Since I like history I found it quite interesting and can relate to how the colonists resented being taxed when they had no representation in Parliament. Of course, as one wag has put it, if they thought taxation without representation was bad, they should see how it is with it!

For lunch we, of course, had to eat an authentic Philly cheese steak sandwich. After about a ten-block walk we found a cheese steak place with free fries and ate there. In so doing Glenda was able to find (and have preserved pictorially on Facebook) the “perfect French fry.” I’m not totally clear on what qualifies a fry as perfect but they were quite good. When we finished, Rick and I walked back to where the car was parked so we could pick up the girls. On our way we spotted three people, two guys and one obviously a girl, walking down the street in Spiderman costumes. And, no, I have no explanation.

One of the main reasons for the trip was that the Sight and Sound Theater in Strasburg, PA (this is the original; the one in Branson came along later) was doing a play based on the life of Joseph. No, not the Andrew Lloyd Webber version, although I like it very much, this was an original musical. We needed to be at the theater by 6:30 p.m. and would be staying in King of Prussia, PA (next to Valley Forge). We shopped (if you can call what I do shopping) at a huge mall there and the only one to buy anything was Rick (chef items). At 5 p.m. we needed to get dinner so we could head to Strasburg. Glenda spotted a fondue restaurant called The Melting Pot and thought it would be fun. Though none of us had eaten at a fondue restaurant, we all agreed and went in. (Note: When the four of us are together, whenever anyone can come up with an idea of what to do next it is immediately considered a good idea insofar as it is better than having no idea which is true of the other three.) Mind you, we’re all wearing jeans, and Rick and I are in baseball caps. Our first clue was when the hostess looked surprised and asked cautiously if we had reservations. Her next question was, “Where are you from?” After we told her another woman, presumably her boss, said sort of under her breath, “Um, let’s seat them at table 41.” We were led to a back area and handed menus. The first item was: Four Course Fondue for Two – $86.00. After we gulped, a lovely, friendly, helpful young waitress came and said, “So I hear you’re from Missouri.” Apparently the Hayseed Alert had already circulated throughout the establishment. We admitted that we had never eaten at a fondue restaurant before. “Have you eaten at a hibachi restaurant?” she asked. For some reason an image of those tiny Japanese charcoal grills came into my mind and Rick and I both said, “No.” Then, in classic hillbilly-hick style I said, “We do have a Japanese Steakhouse, though.” The waitress, sweet as she was, said nothing but just shook her head slightly and suppressed a grin. (Note: Ironically, we had eaten at the new Japanese steakhouse for lunch the day we left, and the menu had referred to the items we had ordered that day cooked in front of us as “from the hibachi grill.”) We told her we only had maybe 45 minutes before we had to get going so she went on to explain how things worked. Normally one orders not only cheese fondue but steak, shrimp, chicken or other items that are cooked at the table to accompany it. But in the interests of time, she suggested two cheese fondues with various breads, veggies, and even apples to dip into it. One was spinach and artichoke in Swiss and the other was a Mexican cheddar. She suggested also salads for us. She prepared the fondues at our table and we dug-in. It was delightful but when she came back by to see how we were doing Rick asked what about our salads. She politely notified us that they come afterward and somewhere back in the kitchen another Nerd-alert siren probably went off. The salads were great (I had no idea how good glazed pine nuts were) and she asked if we’d like chocolate-peanut-butter fondue for dessert. Glenda’s a chocoholic so it took no effort at all to decide we’d go for it; our waitress assured us she could get us on our way quickly. It really was excellent, with strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, marshmallows, brownies, and mini-krispy-treats to dip with. Though our waitress had done her best to help us feel at ease, I can’t help but wonder how hard everyone laughed when we left.

We had taken our GPS with us who, having an Australian female voice we have dubbed Matilda, proved pretty valuable at various times. For whatever reason, she took us a rather circuitous route to the theater. When we were less than a mile from it we were still out in the middle of Amish farm country with no lights to be seen. Then suddenly, there was the theater and a long line of traffic. As is true of Noah at Branson, the theater and the play were spectacular. Rick had done an excellent job getting us tickets in an ideal location. I recall that Noah took considerably more liberties with the story than I was completely comfortable with (although I enjoyed it). They had a disclaimer at the beginning of Joseph that some of it was fictionalized but I actually thought the disclaimer unnecessary; it followed the Biblical narrative quite closely. Pleased with how well the trip had gone so far, we headed back to the hotel for a night’s sleep before our next adventure: New York City.


Random Thoughts

  • With regard to sports teams, I may as well face it. The San Jose Sharks are the San Francisco Giants (during their occasional up years) of hockey. Close, but never quite enough. Come to think of it, the only team — pro or college — I’ve ever rooted for that was able to close the deal was the one that, at the outset, would have been considered the least likely: the 5-time Super Bowl champion 49ers. But it’s been a long dry spell for them since their last championship in 1994.
  • Sigh. Once again I find myself sucked-in to watching America’s Got Talent. Truthfully it has pretty much the same problems that caused me to give up on American Idol. The main exception is that they do give more air-time to acts that could possibly be good and don’t dwell on the obvious dorks quite to the extent that Idol does. However, the results from the first level of elimination are disappointing. They kept a billion-year-old woman with caked-on lipstick who screeches while pounding on a keyboard, a trio of dips that play “air instruments,” and an impressionist-pseudo-pantomimer with less talent than somebody’s tipsy uncle at a family reunion. But they dumped a young African-American woman with an exceptional voice, a group of former street people whose acappella harmonizing was magnificent, and barely squeaked-in two sisters who sing together beautifully despite both having cystic fibrosis. Hopefully the home audience will have better judgment than the judges.
  • On the occasion of our recent 37th anniversary, I told my wife that although it wasn’t a very “guy” thing to say, I love being married to her. Whether I would love being married to anyone else I can’t say, since I (fortunately) have no means of comparison, but I definitely love being married to her and wouldn’t have it any other way. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising. God invented marriage and He knows what He’s doing.
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    Sports Report

    Report on my Bay Area sports teams (sorry, MIZZOU, I’ll get back to you in the fall):

    San Jose Sharks Playoffs – They improved on last year’s NHL playoff fiasco by beating Colorado and advancing to the second round. When they play up to their capabilities they can be quite good… It’s been commented-on ad nauseum, but no one would have believed that they could have accomplished this while going all six games with a grand total of one goal being scored by their top line. Heatley can be excused because he was injured in an early game, missed one entirely and was obviously only about 60% for the remainder. Hopefully he can recover before the next round. Thornton actually gave a good effort in other aspects of the game; scoring is not his strong suit anyway, but assists are. So for him to have only three points in six games is definitely eyebrow-raising. Then there’s Marleau. Yes, he did get the lone goal for that threesome, but, of the three, he has played the poorest—and without the excuse of an injury. He both misunderstands and at the same time defies a basic law of physics: A solid object cannot pass through another solid object. When he has the puck and spots a teammate on the other side of the ice, he passes the puck toward his teammate despite there being three sets of opponents’ legs, skates, and sticks directly in the path of the puck. Apparently thinking the puck will somehow magically dematerialize, slide through these obstacles, then rematerialize near his teammate, he repeatedly throws the puck directly to the opponents. This, naturally, leads to innumerable odd-man rushes for the opposition. However, perhaps he believes in this solid-passing-through-solid notion because of what pucks do to his stick. Fully half his attempts to guide, pass, or shoot the puck sees the puck remain right where it is, as if it passes right through his stick. Patrick, do us all a favor and see if you can try playing in this universe with its laws of physics rather than that alternate one you’ve been occupying up to now in the playoffs. Please?… Last season I decided that Joe Pavelski was my favorite player. This season—and certainly these playoffs—have cemented that notion… And Coach McLellan, thanks for having the good sense to keep Brad Staubitz on the healthy scratch list. What is purportedly gained by his “enforcer” role is more than lost in his poor judgment regarding when to be a goon and his exceptionally lacking hockey skills. Both could result in disaster against playoff-quality opponents.

    San Francisco 49ers Draft – Other than a questionable trade-up two positions to get a player almost certain to still be there (and other high-quality alternatives if he wasn’t), this was a good draft. It has been pointed-out that these are all Singletary-type tough, physical players, though some are questionable in terms of character. It will be awesome if Coach Singletary can instill his personal focus, intensity, and Christian-based behavioral ethics into this group and enable them to excel. This is a case where I would love to witness a successful program, not just because I’m a 49er fan, but as proof that a man of purpose and Christian integrity can permeate his entire team with those same qualities. Though during his coaching tenure Singletary is neither shy nor overtly outspoken about his faith publicly, what a great testimony it would be to show that dedication to Christ can translate to dedication in all one’s endeavors. More than that, to show that such a philosophy of life can turn a whole team into both winners and men of integrity. Good luck, Coach. Here’s hoping that the 49ers are the (positive) talk of the NFL this coming season.

    San Francisco Giants – In the past few years my interest in baseball has waned, partly because of all the ridiculous drug scandals, among the most notorious of which involves the Giants’ last hitting star, Barry Bonds. The other reason is that, since his departure, the Giants have been frustratingly inept and made-up primarily of ancient castoffs and retreads. They now have had an infusion of youth and have a dynamite young pitching staff including Tim Lincecum, back-to-back Cy Young award winner. They still don’t have quite enough offense to be a truly great team but they have managed to revive my interest a bit. Taking two of three from the Cardinals including keeping Albert Pujols contained was fairly impressive. As the old bromide goes, good pitching beats good hitting. But as the 2-0 loss in the third game of the series shows, even with good pitching you can’t win games if you can’t manage to score. Still, as long as they don’t take a major nosedive they should keep things interesting enough to bridge the long gap between the end of the NHL playoffs and the start of football.

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    Richard Yoder…

    Richard Yoder was a devout Christian man. For some 45 years Richard Yoder was a gospel preacher. He was never a big-name preacher, even in the small community of churches where he was known. I doubt he ever ministered in a church of more than 50 people. Though he offered literally thousands of invitations in his ministerial life he never had Billy-Graham-like responses where an entire football field is filled with converts. In fact, in the 3+ years I regularly attended the church where he preached so tirelessly I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of conversions that resulted. But there was one that was of particular significance to me: my own.

    You see, back in the spring of 1968 I became smitten, as they used to say, by a gorgeous little blue-eyed blond named Rebecca (Becki). She was two years behind me in high school and she was also a preacher’s daughter. She was Richard Yoder’s daughter. Now, sometimes preachers’ kids become notoriously rebellious, but not so with Becki. She was a devoted daughter and a devoted Christian. Me? I was an atheist. As we started “dating” (as much as her dad would allow) Becki never demanded that I convert to Christ or even attend church. However, I did attend because that’s where she was so often.

    I wasn’t there to listen, I was there to pass notes and spend time with her. But eventually things started to happen. One was that I began to observe the love within her family and to realize that it was the influence of their–especially the parents’–belief in Christ that made it what every family should be. I also realized that part of what made me love Becki was Jesus in her. I also began to actually pay attention to those sermons her dad kept preaching. After some months had passed I began to realize that what this man was saying made sense. In fact, it made sense of the world, of life itself. Eventually I realized that the gospel of Jesus was true. It had to be; it was the only logical, coherent, rational explanation for what life is all about.

    On Sunday, January 5, 1969, Richard Yoder called me over to his study and asked me if I was ready to act upon what I’d been hearing. That evening he baptized me into Christ. On July 7, 1973 he became my father-in-law as I married that wonderful little gal that I’m thrilled to say remains my wife after 36+ years. Richard, along with Becki’s mom, Mary, continued to be wonderful Christian influences, wonderful in-laws, and wonderful grandparents to our sons Paul and Scott.

    Richard Yoder was not famous or even a gifted speaker. But he was dearly loved by a great number of people and exuded Jesus in all of his life. While he may not have legions of converts to show for his faithful service, his influence for Christ was deep and far-reaching nonetheless.

    And among those he did help bring into the Kingdom of God, there’s me. Richard Yoder was more than my father-in-law, Richard Yoder was my father in the faith. For that I am literally eternally grateful. He passed the baton of salvation to me. My prayer is that I will successfully pass it on as well.

    On December 18, 2009, at 90 years of age Richard Yoder went to be with the Lord he had served so faithfully. Thanks, Dad. I shudder to think where I might be had it not been for you.

    – Your loving son in the faith, Don.

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    The Sutter High School class of 1969–my class–had its 40th year reunion on Saturday, November 21. Sutter is a very small town with a small high school and our graduating class was fewer than 70 people. Thirty-some attended the reunion and that included some graduates’ spouses.

    As reunions go, this one was excellent. Sometimes reunions leave the attendees feeling pretty bummed–those who in school had been jerks are still jerks, those who had been snobs are still stuck-up, and those who had been dorks are still dorky. But not so this class, this reunion. Everyone was warm, personable, unpretentious, and friendly.

    We spent a lot of time talking about grown kids, grandkids, and plans for retirement. It is clear that this group that took their diplomas amid handshakes, flashbulbs, and starry-eyed aspirations has had its day in the sun. The baton has long since been passed to the our children’s generation.

    None of us found a cure for cancer, flew to Mars, or brought about world peace. But the attendees of the class of 1969’s 40-year reunion turned out to be good people. And, all things considered, that in itself is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

    So, here’s to my class. May God richly bless you all. I count it a privilege and a source of pride to be a member of the Sutter Union High School class of ’69.

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    Odds and Ends…

    First, a follow-up to the America’s Got Talent story.

    So, Eeyore won. My pick, Barbara Padilla was runner-up. Interestingly, both had problems with their final performances. Barbara made a tactical error by reprising an operatic solo she had previously done. She needed to show that she could use her thrilling voice to sing something in English for us “just plain folks.” Even an old show tune like “Some Enchanted Evening” would have been a much better idea. Kevin Skinner’s performance was vocally poor; he was flat and off-key in parts. Seriously, now that the story of the sniveling chicken farmer has run its course, only the most hard-core and tin-eared CW fans would pay Las Vegas prices to sit through an hour-plus of listening to him. Better invest that $1 million wisely, Eeyore…

    ON THE SPORTS FRONT, time for a quick recap of what’s happening with my teams:

  • SF Giants: Well, it was a nice run while it lasted. I guess you’ve got to give them props for making it interesting through the bulk of the season. Given their unimpressive offense it was amazing they were ever even in the race. But as it stands they have only gone from perennial bottom-feeders to perennial “almosts.” That is, “almost” as in almost a wild-card team. Winning the division is not even a consideration. Which, again, makes one scratch one’s head. Suppose SF managed to squeak into the playoffs and somehow won the two short NLCS series necessary to go to the world series. They are clearly not the best team in the NL by a long shot, so that would make no sense. Playoffs are sometimes of dubious value.
  • MIZZOU Football Tigers: However, the one place an 8-team playoff would make sense is in College Football. So, of course, that’s the one place in sports where it doesn’t happen. Anyway, as for the 3-0 MU Tigers, it has been said that their next 4 games will define their season. However, the next one against Nevada is significant only if they fail to win since they are heavily favored. Assuming they win, beating Nebraska will be huge, and vital. But whether they are just a decent team this year or something really special will be determined by how they play against OK State and Texas the following weeks.
  • SJ Sharks: Speaking of playoffs… No team in all of sports is as Jekyll and Hyde between regular season and playoffs as the Sharks. Last season, with a new coach, a new attitude, a new style of play, and a rip-roaring start I was really hyped about them. After their playoff debacle I’m struggling to generate more than tepid interest this year. Maybe if the Heatly-Thornton-Setoguchi line catches fire I might perk up but for now it’s not there.
  • SF 49ers: Still speaking of playoffs, for a brief shining moment we can mention playoffs and 49ers in the same breath. If they could play .500 for the rest of the season it’s a possibility. Of course, these lofty speculations are due for a sudden collapse after the Vikings in all likelihood rough them up this coming Sunday. Plus, if they should somehow reach the playoffs, they’ll be a really boring team to watch since their offense pretty much consists of a steady stream of 3-and-outs until a couple of times a game they manage to sustain a drive for a score or break Gore loose. I yearn for the Walsh-Montana-Young days when a 3-and-out offensive series was almost unheard of. But, anemic offense or no, Singletary’s got the defense making believers out of opponents week-by-week.
  • But… Why not root for Missouri’s pro football teams, you ask? Actually it’s not for the obvious reason that they’re both terrible. St. Louis is the Rams. C’mon now, no one who is or ever was a 49er fan can root for the Rams. Not even if they gave me a luxury box. As for Kansas City, I actually considered adopting the Chiefs as my AFC team until I heard that nausea-inducing noise that put them permanently on my black list: The tomahawk chant (or chop). This originated with the Florida State Seminoles although it is not some long-standing tradition – they only started it in 1984. It’s irritating to hear FSU do it, hideously repulsive to hear the Atlanta Braves fans do it, and pathetically plageristic for the Chiefs. Nope, sorry, not going to happen. I would not, could not root for any team whose fans do that lame, fingernails-on-a-chalkboard chant.
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    America HAS Talent…

    So, America’s Got Talent huh? (Although, from the title one assumes it doesn’t have much in the way of proper grammatical skills or it would be America Has Talent.) Anyway, for those who, like me, have no better sense than to waste their time watching this drivel, here is my take on the finalists from worst to first:

    Grandma Lee – Granted my sense of humor doesn’t mesh with a lot of people’s; for example, I don’t find David Letterman the least bit funny. And, granted, I have become convinced that performers who resort to off-color humor do so because they don’t have enough truly funny material. They rely on the shock value of what they say to get audience reaction. Hence, I do not find Grandma Lee funny. She aims her risqué humor at the judges who obligingly pound their desk with hilarity and proclaim her comedic timing “impeccable.” It isn’t; it’s slow and halting and if she were 30 years younger she’d have been dumped long ago. As it is she gets additional shock-value mileage by being 75 and saying what someone that age isn’t expected to. But would her lame old-lady sex jokes, sans judges, sustain a full-length Vegas show? No way, and I wouldn’t go for free. Sorry, Granny, it’s a “no” vote from me.

    Kevin Skinner – The human Eeyore. He’s a mediocre singer and at first the aw-shucks human interest angle was somewhat touching. But he has laid that “Ah’m jest a humble hick (sniff, sniff)” stuff on so thick for so long I no longer buy it. An evil part of me sees him offstage after a performance with a martini in one hand and a cell phone in the other saying in plain broadcast English, “Vinny? This is Kev. Hmm? Actually, I thought it went well tonight and, hey, that onion-juice-on-the-guitar-strap idea of yours was pure genius. Gets me teared-up every time. Anyway, did you open that Swiss account for me like I asked you? Super! Need a place to put that cool mil, right? And hey, Vin, have my lawyer tell the producers here I want a penthouse for the Vegas gig…” Back to the chickens, Kevin.

    Drew Stevyns – An OK raspy-voiced singer who is thoroughly uninspiring. Since the audience doesn’t vote people off but instead votes for their favorite, I’d say he has zero chance to win unless all the female voters decide his boyish looks merit their votes.

    Recycled Percussion – An unusual group that beats on buckets, car parts, and other junk as musical percussion. Although they’re interesting to watch, here’s my problem with their performances: They have one actual musician, a guitarist, but I hear a lot of other background music and sound. So how much of what we hear are they actually producing? Or are they just a flamboyant Milli Vanilli?

    The Texas Tenors – Since I am not a fan of country music, trios in cowboy hats do not attract me, although “God Bless the USA” is as country as they’ve gotten so far. When they pull off good harmony (which isn’t always) it’s quite good. They could probably carry a Vegas show (or more likely a Branson show), but I doubt I’d pay to go, even if I was already there.

    Lawrence Beaman – Good singer with a deep, mellow voice. However, he has limited range and needs to pick his songs carefully. Cries too much and too easily but he’s the best male singer of the bunch.

    Hairo Torres – This guy is amazing for the contortions he can put his quadruple-jointed body through all while performing acrobatic break dancing. Him I’d pay to see.

    The Fab Five – Talented group of five twenty-something to thirty-something sisters who can dance up a storm. I’m not real big on watching dance acts but they’re amazingly precise, they’re attractive but modest, and they seem to be having a ball while on stage. The biggest concern with them is that their dancing is so frenetic that after a 2-minute audition performance they’re completely gassed. That being the case, how on earth will they handle a full 60 or 90-minute Vegas show?

    The Voices of Glory – Two brothers and a sister (16, 11, and 9 I think) who blend excellently. The little girl has a dynamite voice and is fearless on stage. Their background story is quite touching; you can’t help but root for them.

    Barbara Padilla – Operatic singer who is the whole package. Great human interest story of a cancer-surviving wife and mom who sort of came from nowhere. She’s a lovely lady who comes across as incredibly gentle, kind, and caring (okay, okay, she also cries too much and too easily but I’m cutting her some slack). But all that aside, even though I’m no opera aficionado her performances give me goose bumps. I would definitely pay to see her perform and would sincerely hope for a chance to meet her and shake her hand afterwards. Even though an operatic singer won last year, she is by far the most talented of the competition and gets my vote to win it all.

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    A Poem

    In the Year that is my life it’s September.
    Early September.
    It’s still summer, you know.
    Most people think of it as autumn.
    But summer doesn’t end until September is far spent.

    Just ignore that silly old tree out past the back fence.
    Its leaves turn yellow way too soon—long before the others.
    It’s still summer.

    It has been an eventful summer.
    Since it started I’ve gone from Dad to Father-in-law to Grandpa.
    Admittedly, my love and I cannot stoop and pick flowers like we did;
    Not like we did when we began our journey together back in the early spring.
    That silly old tree already has leaves on the ground under it.
    But, really, it’s still summer.

    I can’t believe the stores are already displaying Halloween stuff.
    How foolish.
    Halloween means the advent of cold weather.
    Why think about the cold when it’s still summer?
    For another week or two.

    I don’t look forward to cold weather,
    Or achy joints, or short, dark days.
    Coats and blankets can’t warm you like summer does.
    I don’t look forward to the cold.
    And spring will never come again.

    But no need to dwell on that now.
    It’s still summer, after all.
    Even if that silly tree thinks it’s autumn.
    It’s not. It’s still summer,
    After all.

    And yet…
    When the Year ends, so will winter.
    And I will bask in the glow of a glorious Day,
    Warm and bright in the Light of eternal Love.
    My Friend will take me by the hand
    And I would wonder why I worried about summer’s end,
    Except that I probably won’t remember these seasons at all.

    I will be too engrossed in His glory to think about something as mundane
    As summer, after all.
    — D. L. Hamilton

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