Sunday, March 29, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
In July 2006, Tara and I got married and moved into a rental house on Letterly Street in Philadelphia. Overall, I'm very grateful for our time there. It served its purpose and will go down in the Alan & Tara annals as our first house together. But I must say, the place was hard to heat up in the winter and a chore to cool down in the summer. We must have been PGW and PECO's favorite customers as a result. Plus, the previous tenants let their cats have free reign in the basement, so despite our best cleaning efforts, the pleasant scent of cat urine would occasionally come wafting up through the vents. We talked to our landlord about the possibility of buying that house but something just didn't feel right. For a number of reasons, it just wasn't the house that we thought would be best to settle down in long term as we work to plant roots in our surrounding community and eventually raise children. Nor did we feel that throwing away more money in rent was wise.
Meanwhile, down the street at the end of the block was this hideous shell of a house. I mean this thing was a freaking eyesore: Boarded up windows and rickety shutters. It looked like something out of a horror film. And that was just the view from the outside! From what we learned from our neighbors, the house had pretty much been in an empty state of decay for the past decade or so. In mid 2007, a guy bought the house and began rehabbing it with the intention of selling it upon completion. Since Tara and I had been living on the block, we saw the whole rehab process unfold and even got a few chances to see the amazing work that was being done inside. At some point, we dared ourselves to dream what we never thought would be possible: to stay on Letterly Street (where we felt really moved to commit long-term) but not have to live in our rental house. But it just didn't seem feasible. This newly rehabbed house would surely be out of our price range.
Well, sometimes things work out that are simply beyond our control. Needless to say, despite overwhelming odds, we were able to buy the house at the end of our block. On our moving day, with the help of a bunch of awesome friends, we got all our stuff moved from the old house into the new house in one hour...(organizing it afterwards was a much longer process, of course). Now, one year later, Tara and I are continuing to fall in love with our new house more and more. One of Tara's favorite features is the completely open downstairs - from the living room all the way through to the kitchen - which creates way more space than we previously had. One of my favorite features is that in addition to the full bathroom upstairs, there is also a half bathroom downstairs; a feature we didn't have in our old rental. I love that I don't have to run upstairs to use the bathroom between innings of Phillies games anymore. What can I say? I'm easily amused. Our dog Bailey was, I think, initially a little confused as to why we were now going into the house at the end of the block rather than the one in the middle, but she soon adjusted. Most importantly however, are the people who live on our block and the relationships that have been built over the past three years. Without a doubt, they make living on Letterly Street worthwhile.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Through many peoples' willingness to step out of their comfort zones and build relationships with their neighbors, more than a dozen overall opportunities in the Fishtown/Kensington area opened up for us to fix and paint houses, clean lots, and do various types of yard work. On my block of Letterly Street, the most pressing need was the cleaning of an empty lot at the end of the street, next to my house. This is a space in which kids in the neighborhood frequently come to play and where people have barbecues in the spring and summer. Over the past year, this lot had slowly turned into a trash heap and a dog excrement zone. Freaking gross! With rakes, shovels, trash bags, and pooper scooper in hand, we set out to gut the Letterly lot. And gut it we did.
Yes, that is an entire bag full of dog crap
Tara found some really gross items
Among the excavated debris was a small barbell weight...(weird!)
Bethany, craving McDonald's as we neared the end
To quote my good friend and liberti church elder, Joe Marlin:
"I saw some neighbors resist help, and yet, a new relationship and openness has been born out of the concern and love shown by members of our church. I saw a family that had broken away from each other over the years, in a house we painted, where the father had died late last year. I saw that family hold hands with us and pray with tears to Jesus for their family to be healed and reconciled. I saw college students with a new perspective on the city, the church, and what following Jesus is all about. At least one so far is rethinking what it all means for his future, his career, and his old attitude towards the city and the poor. Others are thinking of spending their summer interning with us and diving more into the ministry of Jesus in Fishtown. I saw a family that has fostered more kids than you can imagine, have the holes and drawings on their walls plastered and painted fresh, and praise God for us, even as we were praising God for them. I saw new relationships forming with the neighbors we worked alongside, who have long been disillusioned with the church seeming to do nothing but exclude people. I saw a new appetite in people to continue to show God's love and concern for their neighbors. I saw the gospel proclaimed in many ways on a dozen corners in Philly and his people equipped for service and good works. Little brings me more joy than that."
Friday, March 20, 2009
The next morning, I looked at the text message again and it finally hit me: Christopher McDonald, the actor who plays Shooter McGavin...the antagonist character from the Adam Sandler film, Happy Gilmore! But what on earth was the connection? I texted Annie back and got this response: "I walked up to him on 59th Street and said, 'Hi, my name is Anne and I loved you in Happy Gilmore!' He said, 'Thanks Anne.' We shook hands."
The funniest aspect of this, in my opinion, is that Christopher McDonald has been in 85 films to date, most of which are probably serious works of art that required a great deal of dramatic acting skill. But my guess is that, just like this interaction with Annie, he probably gets recognized most for his role as a complete schmuck in the aforementioned 1996 Adam Sandler slapstick. I'm sure he just loves that!
This isn't the first time that Annie has run into a celebrity in New York. Several years ago, I came home to a message on my answering machine that said something to the effect of "Hey Alan, guess what? I ran into Derek Jeter today!" Now, mind you, my cousin cares nothing for baseball and knows very little of the men who play the game for a living. Any time I even reference the subject around her, she goes into a state of deep hypnosis. And now, she's not only running into Derek Jeter, but also recognizing him and even stopping him for a photo op?
My cousin Annie (right) and her friend, along with Yankee bum Derek Jeter.
I asked Annie what her secret was...how she always ends up running into high profile people. She responded, "I've always got my eyes roaming in NYC. I love seeing and meeting celebs!"
That got me thinking as to how many celebrities I might have unknowingly walked right past throughout my lifetime. I guess I've got to start "roaming" with my eyes a little more.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
At a point when I had figured there were no more original niches to be carved out in the world of stand up comedy, along came Demetri Martin...a man who practically reinvented the wheel. Demetri (I'll refer to him by first name because it sounds like I know him personally) is a 35 year old who looks 18.
A few of my favorite Demetri Martin thoughts on life:
There's a saying that goes, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." Okay. How about "Nobody should throw stones." That's crappy behavior. My policy is: "No stone throwing regardless of housing situation." Don't do it. There is one exception though. If you're trapped in a glass house, and you have a stone, then throw it. What are you, an idiot? So maybe it's "Only people in glass houses should throw stones, provided they are trapped in the house with a stone." It's a little longer, but yeah.
I was walking in the park and this guy waved at me. Then he said, "I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else." I said, "I am."
I saw a guy at a party wearing a leather jacket and I thought, "That is cool." But then I saw another guy wearing a leather vest and I thought, "That is not cool." Then I figured it out: "Cool" is all about leather sleeves.
Saying "I’m sorry" is the same as saying "I apologize." Except at a funeral.
An easy way to sound like a creep is to add the word "ladies" to the end of things you say. It can be harmless too, but it just makes you a creep. "Yeah, after college I spent two years in the peace corps...ladies?" The more harmless it is, the more of a creep you become. "I broke my arm. I need help...ladies?"
My favorite fruit is grapes. Because with grapes, you always get another chance. ‘Cause, you know, if you have a crappy apple or a peach, you’re stuck with that crappy piece of fruit. But if you have a crappy grape, no problem...just move on to the next. Grapes: The Fruit of Hope!
I don’t like graffiti unless it teaches me something. Like "Oh, that’s how Alex feels about Maria. I wouldn’t have known if I had not walked by there, thank you." Graffiti’s the most passionate literature there is, you know? It’s always like "Bush sucks!" or "U2 Rocks!" I want to make indifferent graffiti. "Toy Story 2 was okay!" or "I like Sheryl as a friend, but I’m not sure about taking things further." or "This is a bridge!"
I used to play sports. Then I realized you can buy trophies. Now I’m good at everything.
Swimming is a confusing sport, because sometimes you do it for fun, and other times you do it to not die. And when I’m swimming, sometimes I’m not sure which one it is. I gotta go by the outfit: Pants...uh oh. Bathing suit...okay. Naked...we’ll see.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Thank you for bringing up this important and relevant topic. First, as to the validity of the forwarded email, I highly doubt its accuracy since John Howard is no longer the Prime Minister of Australia as of December 2007, nor am I convinced he actually said those things since internet forwards often attribute false thoughts and statements to high profile people. That said, I have an extremely hard time believing that the "if-you-don't-like-it-then-get-out" mentality is one that exemplifies the nature and character of Jesus in any way. Unfortunately what it does do is feed the growing monster that 21st century Christian culture has become, especially in America. During Jesus' ministry, he was faced with obstacles at every turn; in essence, Jesus' detractors were criticizing Christ's own criticism of how the people of Israel should be loving and serving God with their lives. The peoples' general collective response to Jesus? "If you don't like it, get out." Jesus' response however is striking because (while I personally struggle with the negative and sinful compulsion to write off people and shun them for being different from me) he actually stopped to look at people individually, listened to what they said, and responded in compassion. His responses fly in the face of what our society tell us to do because they look at the person with love, not in attempts to solidify a group of like-minded, stubborn people.
This email forward was speaking specifically of Australia, but the same general concepts are true of America as well. We are blessed to live in a land that does offer us the freedom to come and go as we please, but pridefully raising the Christian flag and showing outsiders the door has as much to do with the person of Christ as the New York Mets do with winning the World Series (sorry, couldn't resist). Our nation wasn't founded as a club of people who said "we love Jesus and if you don't, bleep you!" (And even if it was, there would be nothing biblically Christlike about that). Our country was founded to be a place where people who come from all different worldviews can actually come together and find common ground. (This country was also founded by men who thought slavery was a great idea -- but that's a discussion for another day). What an amazing blessing and privilege it is for those of us who are followers of Christ to be able to engage in meaningful dialogue, partnership, and service with those who don't understand what it means to have a relationship with Jesus.
Most of the reasons Christians have a bad reputation is OUR fault and most of the reasons people have written off Jesus because of us are well justified. Our faith perspectives grate against a morally relativistic culture and when the world challenges us, our response is to react by saying in essence, "our house, our rules." Is this the newfound Jesus we've created to appease ourselves as the world suffers around us? Is this the Jesus who commands us to kick out the outsiders rather than love and pray for our enemies and our neighbors as ourselves? Is this the Jesus that has forgotten the poor, the widowed, and the oppressed as we continue to live in fattened luxury and play the Sunday charade? We're surrounded by a young generation that's finding it easier and easier to walk away from even considering following Christ because of our swagger, ego, and pride. We have MUCH to learn from a generation that feels like we don't give them the time of day, because the truth is we don't care to stop and listen to their struggles for even a moment. As Christ's representatives, we have to lovingly articulate the reality that there is a holy and loving Creator who holds us to a standard that exists beyond our finite and broken lives. Our awareness of a transcendent being should drastically alter who we are and how we think for the better.
There are approx. 25 million people in this country under the age of 30 who have rejected a life of following Jesus. When we consider the "if you don't like it, get out" mentality, we'd be ignorant to disregard the fact that this number of people is growing exponentially. Young people who reject Christ and the church are by no means a fringe segment of American society. Each generation contains more than the last. And yet, the Christian traditions in our society permeate most aspects of our country. In a nation of about 300 million people, the vast majority identify themselves as Christians and many are even active churchgoers, so it's clear that Christianity leaves an enormous footprint in American culture. However, the depth of most Christians' faith and lifestyles leaves much to be desired. Our task is to be effective agents of spiritual transformation in peoples' lives, no matter what that may cost to us in time, comfort, or image. We ought to realize that if the enormous amount of Christians in this country has not achieved anywhere near the level of positive influence hoped for, then it's certainly not the fault of a justifiably skeptical and jaded culture of people, but the fault of those of us who fail to make the person of Christ real to others in our words and deeds.
Some say Christianity is under attack in America. I'd say it's been under attack throughout the whole world since Jesus came and shook up the things that needed to be shook up. What do we want, more comfort in our lives? As Americans, are we not living in Disneyland every day as it is?
The 10 commandments are not allowed in courtrooms. I ask, so freaking what? Would keeping them on the wall change hearts or simply fuel the collective Christian ego that we've won some kind of silly victory?
More and more people don't want to say "Merry Christmas" and stores want to display "Holiday" trees instead of Christmas trees. I ask, why is this such a blow to your pride? If you are a redeemed son or daughter of the risen King, what do pine trees have to do with it? If everyone and everything went back to simply saying or displaying the word "Christmas" will that make everything better? Will that end poverty? Injustice? Racism? War?
Some say we should tell outsiders to get out. I'd say, we should be begging outsiders to come in.
The truth is, yes Christianity is under attack, and most of that attack is due to our provoke.
October 29, 2008. Game 5 of the World Series. The Philadelphia Phillies held a 3 games to 1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Rays and were leading game 5 by a score of 4-3 in the 9th inning. Phillies' closer Brad Lidge had recorded 2 outs and was one strike away from securing only the second world championship in team history. My chest tightened as the final pitch was thrown and as I watched the batter swing and miss, the reality slowly set in: THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES HAD BECOME THE 2008 WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The neti pot method of nasal irrigation involves a small pot that looks somewhat like the genie's lamp from Aladdin. You fill it with lukewarm water, stir in a little saline solution, lean over the sink, tilt your head to the side, and stick the spout of the pot in one nostril. The water will then enter your nose, flood the sinus cavity, and then empty out the other nostril. No, you won't choke! If you simply keep breathing out of your mouth, you will barely feel a thing. After the pot is empty, blow your nose and repeat on the other nostril. If you're a guy, I guarantee the ladies think this is really hot. Nothing turns my wife on more than watching snot-water pour out of my nose.
At the time I began this practice last summer, I was battling a painful and oxygen-withholding sinus infection. Two days later, it was completely gone. And I'm happy to say, nine months later, I've had the healthiest winter of my life. The one cold that I did get was not nearly as miserable as they routinely have been in the past. Using a neti pot is extremely cost effective too. The one time price of the pot itself is about $15 and if you buy the pre-measured saline powder packets online, a pack of 100 is about $8, and usually lasts quite a while. So don't just take my word for it. Try it yourself. You will certainly save money on all the cold medicines that usually just cover up the symptoms while doing nothing to actually address the root problem.
View a full demonstration here.
I'm Alan Atchison and I endorse this product!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I'm talking, of course, about that ancient structure known as Stonehenge. Sure, those giant boulders are heavy, and granted there were no cranes or forklifts at the time it was built. Buy hey, you could get 30 to 40 grown men to surround a bus and lift it from point A to point B if you really needed to, so the fact that some of those boulders are stacked on top of each other doesn't keep me from yawning. Do you think the crown of the Taj Mahal - which is hundreds of feet off the ground - was feather weight?
One of the biggest reasons Stonehenge has been revered is because many believe it's some sort of ancient calendar. Well that's nice. I'm sure at some point someone planned an ancient barbeque and told his friends about it. And his friends then checked with "The Henge" and responded "Sorry Bob-ocles, I've got plans the day when the south-eastern star is in the upper left formation."
Of course, you get the occasional nuts who say that Stonehenge was not a man made structure at all, but rather one formed by aliens. I have one question if that's the case: how bored were these aliens with us that they came down, looked around, played with some rocks, and bolted?? Man, we must be dull!! Could you just see the aliens returning to their planet with this news?:
"President Zimzorg, we have returned from the populated green planet bearing unfortunate news. The humans are a worthless people and their land is a fruitless one."
A Tribute to a Fallen Comrade
You have been with me since the days of my youth, a brave and mighty soldier enlisted in my oral army.
Throughout the years you grew in strength and stature, a true leader among your peers.
We have shared many a meal together and many a chocolate product.
And whether the obstacle was tough in texture or soft and malleable, your unwavering strength never hesitated in making the most of your ability.
Always one to know your place, you never bit my lip or cheek, unlike some of your more rebellious brothers, nor did you ever object to my ever repetitious mint crunching upon your resilient body.
But somewhere throughout the years, the fiery spirit inside you began to fade.
Somewhere I heard you crying out for help as I drifted off to sleep, too tired to reach for a toothbrush; your one true ally.
I rushed you to aid, to the only ones who could save you. But my efforts were futile.
The decay had taken hold.
Death was imminent.
I laid there powerless as they drilled deep into your core, and all the while you handled it so bravely.
But in the end they told me you could not be saved, that you must be replaced.
Your days on the front lines were over.
As I sat there sadly pondering the good times we'd shared, my grief was further compounded with the knowledge that my lousy insurance will only pay for half of your replacement.
Truly you and I must have shared one cheesecake too many...
So my dear friend, as our days as a team come to an end, know that you will not be forgotten, that your many efforts have not been in vain, and that never a tooth shall be called as sweet as you.