Monday, March 30, 2009

You've Got to Be Kidding!

I was just reading a news article in USAToday that said Memphis Tigers’ head coach, John Calipari, is considering jumping over to the University of Kentucky.

This after much protest over the weekend that he loved Memphis and wants to remain here.

Coach Cal has created a great basketball team University of Memphis – taking the team to the finals last year, to the Sweet 16 this year. And he has signed the top three recruits for next year’s team.

That, along with a $2.35+ million salary, might compel him to stay in Memphis.

But then again, who wouldn’t want to coach Kentucky? To lead the winningest team in college basketball? To have one’s name up there with the likes of Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall and Rick Pitino?

In Kentucky, the head basketball coach is like a god.

Reminds me of a joke: A guy dies and goes to heaven. As St. Peter is showing him around, they come upon the Heavenly Basketball Court. There, a lone figure paced up and down the sidelines, shouting and waving his arms about wildly. The man commented, “Wow! Who does that guy think he is? God?”

“No,” St. Peter replied. “That is God. He thinks he’s Rick Pitino!”

I remember the Pitino days. He lent his name to a restaurant just off Rupp Arena called “Bravo Pitino”. He had a radio call-in show, during which rabid Kentucky fans would ask not only for his basketball insights, but for marriage advice and financial counsel as well.

And, sadly, he would give it!

So, again, why wouldn’t Calipari want all that?

But frankly, I don’t care. I don’t like basketball.

What really bothered me about the news article I was reading is this line:

“Calipari did not immediately return a text message from The Associated Press. Several Memphis players did not respond to e-mail messages left by the AP.”

Since when did the Associated Press (or any press, for that matter) start sending out “text messages” to people of standing like Calipari, and “emails” to college basketball students? What has happened to journalism? What is happening to our world?

Maybe I’m just an old fart.

Okay, not “maybe”… I am just an old fart.

Anyway, I have a niece who won’t talk on her cell phone; she won’t answer it if I call. But she’s happy to send me a text message.

More like a “text grunt” actually, usually limited to one word. But, hey, it’s a start!

But sending a text message to Calipari?

If I was Coach Cal, I would most certainly send a text message back to the assuming AP writer:


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Guy Rules

There are certain rules that exist in the universe. The “Guy Rules”.

Guys intuitively know these things. It’s all part of being a “guy”.

For example, “Complaining about the brand of free beer in a buddy’s fridge is strictly forbidden.”

And, “When stumbling upon other guys watching a sporting event, you may always ask the score of the game in progress, but you may never ask ‘Who’s playing?’"

And, “It is permissible to quaff a fruity chick-drink only when you’re sunning on a tropical beach…and it’s delivered by a topless supermodel… and it’s free.”

Of course, everyone knows -and appreciates- the rule, “Friends don’t let friends wear Speedos. Ever.”

And then there’s the Guy Rule, “While channel-surfing, if a guy should come across a ‘Godfather’ movie in progress, he must stop and watch the movie through to the end.”

This is the “Guy Rule” I most often represent. With 24-hour cable television stations working overtime to fill up their schedules, the “Godfather” movies are almost always on at some time.

And I’m hooked.

I even have the triology on DVD. When my wife leaves town, I often have a “Godfather” marathon.

So what is the attraction?

It’s a guy thing.

The “Godfather” movies are all about money and power. And that alone is appealing. We all want to be rich and powerful. How many times do we dream of being able to say to someone, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse”?

But the underlying –more important– themes are loyalty and honor. In simplistic terms, if someone has done you a solid, you are in his debt. Thus, honor requires you to fulfill the request to come, even if it is “something very difficult”.

Unfortunately, loyalty and honor are lost values these days. I can’t count how many people I have “saved” from starvation or eviction, who promise they will be at church the following Sunday but never show up.

How many times have I helped a friend in need who, when it came time to return the favor, was too busy with “more important things” to respond?

How many times have I offered someone gainful employment, only to have them take it for granted and embarrass me in the process? In today’s economy, I would think being offered a job should endear one to the employer.

Which brings me to the final reason the “Godfather” trilogy is so appealing: when someone crosses you or fails you or embarrasses you, they are dispatched. Vanished. Gone.

It’s not personal. It’s business.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Winds of Change

I took a couple days leading into the weekend to go to Paducah to help with disaster recovery work following the ice storm at the end of January.

Okay, the truth is I only worked on my mother's house -- but it was legitimate work. She had more than $12,000 in damages to her home because of the ice storm and was way down on the list for help from the conference Disaster Recovery Teams.

We replaced the broken fence, repaired a hole inside where a tree branch had broken through the roof all the way into the house, hauled away four truck loads of downed tree branches, spoke with a "Pella Doors" representative about replacing the shattered sliding glass door, and a contractor about doing the repairs to the roof.

And I learned a lot in the process. For example, "Pella" told the insurance company a new door would cost $6,000; the rep quoted us $3,000 for Architect Series and $2,000+ for Pro Series. We found a "Pella" door (Pro Series) at one of the big box retailers for only $900. And roofers are charging way more than insurance companies are paying for during this time of need.


During this time away, I was too busy to check emails or read newspapers, and the local news broadcasts are pretty anemic. So, upon returning home, I was surprised to discover that the world continued on without me.

Here's a brief update of what I missed:

"Pope's Poll Numbers plunge in France"
Yes, according to USAToday, Pope Benedict is slipping in the polls. Following his recent pronouncement that condoms are not the answer the the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the people of France gave him a 57% disaproval rating.

Now, I'm not Catholic, so someone may need to enlighten me on this. But since when did the Vicar of Christ start relying upon opinion polls to guide his decisions?

"N.J. backs off 'Brazilian' wax ban"
Again, according to USAToday, New Jersey was on the brink of outlawing the practice of removing hair from a woman's most private region by waxing.

Apaprently, lawmakers in New Jersey have nothing better to do. They sited two cases of infections related to the waxing that landed the women in the hospital.

Or perhaps the Garden State legislators just like their women more hirsute!

Fortunately, the N.J. Director of Consumer Affairs said he wouldn't support the ban.

Salon owners -- and many N.J. beach-goers -- breathed a sigh of relief.

Reminds me of a classified ad I saw in the "Memphis Flyer" for Hi Gorgeous salon, advertising waxing for men: "Backs, cracks and sacks!"

I know: Ewwwww!

I wonder what the Pope thinks about that?

"Manatees' record numbers not likely to renew 'endangered' debate"
Animal World USA, a free newspaper I picked up at dinner last night, announced that Florida's recent Manatee count tallied a record 3,807. That's 500 more than previous estimates. Apparently the colder waters caused the warm-water sea-cows to congregate near nuclear power plants and natural springs, making them easier to count.

However, before we get excited about the number, we should remember that the United Methodist Church loses more than 3,800 members each year. If manatees were Methodist, they would be in real trouble!

Finally, something closer to home. When I returned to Memphis last night I discovered that the Jeep dealership near my house closed over the weekend. I have been coveting a Jeep Wrangler for about a year now, and was hoping to support a community business when I finally do make the decision to buy.

Why a Jeep? The feeling of the open road? The wind blowing through my hair? 'Cause chicks dig 'em?

Nope. Purely practical. Have you ever driven around the streets of Memphis?!?

I want to get at least one more year out of my Ford Ranger, which still runs pretty good at 9 years old.

And, who knows, maybe without the dealership there to daily remind me, I will eventually decide I can do without a new Jeep.

(P.S. - The "Taco Bell" in front of my gym also closed, but then... who cares!)

Monday, March 16, 2009


CEOs of major financial institutions are making millions of dollars each while their banks are drawing bailout money from the government.

“Outrageous!” we cry out.

The CEOs of the “Big Three” automakers came to Congress begging for a rescue, but they arrived in their corporate jets.

“Outrageous!” we cry out.

Executives of AIG are due previously-agreed-upon bonuses, although the company is receiving 10X the amount in government bailout money.

“Outrageous!” we cry out.

The nation is in a deep recession, but the President still flies around in his private plane and helicopter. And have you seen the presidential limo?!?

Where is the outrage? (besides from the usual Republicans.)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi still wants her private ride too.

Where is the outrage? (Ditto.)

The United Methodist Church is losing hundreds of members each year, offerings are declining, and yet pastors’ salaries continue to rise; in fact, superintendents even strongly recommend a percentage increase each year to offset “cost of living”.

Where is the outrage?

Some pastors show up at church in big, fancy cars; some sport expensive suits; some live in big (non-parsonage) homes.

Where is the outrage?

When Jonah cried out against Nineveh, “Forty days and you shall be overthrown,” the King put on sack cloth and sat in ashes and ordered the same for every person in the kingdom, as well as all the animals. And God relented of His anger and did not destroy Nineveh.

Is it possible that the crisis we are in today is not just “their fault” but “our fault”, and that perhaps we could all try on the sackcloth for a time?

And not just in a churchy, “this-is-Lent-so-I’m-supposed-to-act-repentant” sense.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Correction to previous post

The Staff at "Banana Winds" wishes to apologize for representing the following picture in our previous blog as real.

Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that the picture had been cleverly altered, possibly with the intent to mislead, posibly even to get a date. However, we assure you that our mistake was unintended -- no doubt the result of an overworked graphics arts staff.

Frankly, though, the mistake is understandable. For example, this guy IS real.

So is he... er, she.

So is this guy.

On the other hand, the staff is still undecided about this guy...

And his friends...

So please accept our apologies for the unintended error in the last post. In the future we will attempt to be more careful to authenticate photos before stealing them off of the internet.

But we're pretty sure this one is real, Ladies!

Call me!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Physical Fitness

Three days a week, I get up at 6 a.m. and drive three miles to my gym. I work through my routine on the weight equipment, then ride five miles on a stationary bike.

I know… if I rode my bike to the gym, I could get in an extra mile and cut my workout time in half.

Shut up.

I have always been interested in physical fitness.

I remember back to 3rd grade P.E. at Oxford Elementary where the President’s Physical Fitness Program was an integral part of the curriculum. The award was created in 1956 by President Eisenhower, who became concerned when he read that European children were in better physical health than American children.

Then there were the role models. My comic books always had a “Charles Atlas” ad in the back. I think even then I was leaning toward a beach lifestyle and I sure didn’t want anyone kicking sand in my face!

And on television there was Jack Lalaine demonstrating exercises, Arnold Schwarzenegger winning the Mr. Universe title, and Lou Ferrigno portraying “The Incredible Hulk” (back before computer animation took over).

And later there was the beloved Dr. Frankenfurter’s attempt to create the perfect man…

Of course, all good things can be abused.

And somehow, all this just doesn’t translate well to female bodies.

When I went out to California for seminary, the California stereotype was all about “tofu and bean sprouts”. Cool! I learned to enjoy a multitude of fresh vegetables, especially my beloved avocados, and a healthier lifestyle.

Unfortunately, about 10 years ago Crispy Crème Donuts entered the SoCal market, and suddenly cars were lining up around the block for the hot little grease-bombs. Now I suspect that if California slides off into the Pacific Ocean, it will be because of its overweight population!

In 1988, when I was interviewed by the Board of Ordained Ministry for my (first) ordination as deacon, one of the main topics of concern was weight. Some of those in my ordination class were overweight, and some on the Board were unwilling to approve them for ministry because of that.

The discussion ended when one Board member rose and said, “Gentlemen [sic], look around the table and tell me who’s not fit for ministry.” Several hung their jowls in shame, and since that day the Board has never openly made an issue of a candidate’s weight.

Today, unfortunately, I can name six of my colleagues who have undergone surgery to control their weight – some with damaging consequences.

Then, about six years ago at Annual Conference, the delegates were once again arguing about the high cost of our health insurance. The truth is, clergy are now considered among the least healthy of all professions. Tired of the “just fix it” attitude I was hearing – “We don’t want to change our lifestyles, just give us cheaper health care!” – I took to the floor (a rarity for me) and proposed a new form for the annual Charge Conference, by which each pastor must report on how s/he is taking care of her/him self physically.

The laity overwhelmingly approved my resolution, even before I finished reading it. My brothers and sisters in the clergy to this day still grumble at me.

But, as with so many of those forms, that report is now simply filed away without any further discussion. One pastor, who hauls around 400+ pounds of body weight, told me that what he wrote on his form would “curl your eyebrows”, but still his D.S. said nothing.

Now there is a new initiative being proposed to encourage healthy living among our clergy. Instead of just paying to have our bodies fixed when they break down, there are those who want to encourage healthy living and preventative health care.

I applaud the effort; I will participate. But the challenge is convincing those who really need it to get on board.

And to stop the enablers at pot luck dinners who insist, “Preacher, go back and get some more food!”

If I sound judgmental, I apologize. I confess I have a real prejudice against grossly-overweight people. In Memphis recently, a 700-lb. man had to be hauled out of his house through a hole in the wall by a team of firefighters; he had injured his wrist trying to readjust his weight and needed medical attention.

I just don’t understand: how does one reach 700 lbs. without recognizing a problem? And who enables that behavior? Who brings him the two dozen glazed donuts for breakfast and the four large pizzas for dinner?

I know it is not about the numbers on the scale, or even the shape of one’s body. But friends, if you can no longer bend over to tie your shoes, or get winded just walking to the bathroom, these are warning signs that you might have a problem!

Granted, we don’t all have to look like Mr. Universe, but we could at least show we care about the body God has given us.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

12 Hours Later...

The temperature in Memphis actually topped 80 degrees yesterday!

Today, we have a Winter Storm Advisory.

Addendum, later same day:
Expect winter storm tonight
By Michael Lollar
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for the Mid-South, with forecasts of up to a quarter of an inch of freezing rain or sleet overnight, possibly turning to snow in areas north of Interstate 40.
Meteorologist Krissy Scotten said the forecast will be reviewed late this afternoon, but shortly before 1 p.m. today she said the Weather Service expects the freezing precipitation to begin between midnight and sunrise and continue into Thursday. “It should be winding down by tomorrow evening by sunset.” Scotten said up to two inches of snow could accumulate in parts of northwest Tennessee.
Keep in mind that "up to two inches of snow could accumulate" is what they told us two weeks ago when we got more than 5" overnight!
I love Memphis!

Monday, March 9, 2009

"Weekend Warriors"

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Karen and I make it our mission to improve church parsonages wherever we are appointed. Sometimes this has required only a touch-up, sometimes it has required a complete overhaul.

I am happy to report that the Master Bath project at the current parsonage is back on track. As some of you will recall, I gutted this small bathroom back in October. It sat idle until last month.

Here's what the room looked like before we moved in.

This is last month.

After installing the cement backer-board, the next task was refinishing the tub itself.

I like how the overspray creates a halo effect... the new tub glows!

This weekend I finished the tile floor.

There is still plenty to be done before this room is complete, but I am making progress!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Life Lessons

I finished reading “Life Lessons of a Legend” yesterday at lunch. But before I launch into a brief overview of what made Capt. Tony Tarracino the legend that he was, I first need to apologize to Brad Manard for my criticisms in the last post.

They were not in the spirit of Capt. Tony, and I apologize.

But c’mon, you’re a school superintendent; you’ve got a doctorate in Education Administration; you used to teach high school English. So you ought to know the difference between “peaked” and “piqued”, “loose” and “lose”. And Rommel’s WWII German Panzer unit was the “Afrikakorps” not the “African Core”.

Okay, that last one was history, not English. You are forgiven.


Having completed the book, I still believe Manard was on a mid-life odyssey to find his inner Parrothead when he stumbled across Capt. Tony, realized that this was as close to Buffett as he was going to get, and decided to immortalize the captain – and himself in the process – through this unfiltered, uncritical tribute.

Compared to the life of a school superintendent in Iowa, Capt. Tony’s life must have seemed fantastic!

Capt. Tony’s primary lesson was “compassion”. That was pretty much covered in chapter 2. Care about people. Although not a religious man, Capt. Tony knew he had been blessed throughout his long life – life, work, a family… unconventional though it was. So he shared his blessings with others.

He shared his blessings with the occasional dollar to the numerous homeless people on Key West, an extra large tip for a cute waitress, and usually a kind word and a compliment – sometimes real, sometimes flattery. Capt. Tony said he always looked for the “jewel” inside everyone.

This, I believe is where Manard got suckered in. The legendary Capt. Tony frequently introduced him to people as “a great writer”. Pure flattery. But Manard started believing it.

Did the old man happen to mention to the “great writer” that he was at the same time working on an official autobiography with Wendy Tucker, formerly a reporter for the Miami Herald?

But I digress.

This lesson about compassion was actually best summed up by Randy, manager of Capt. Tony’s Saloon, who pointed to the popular Key West bumper sticker that proclaims “One Human Family”. This is the “official philosophy of Key West, Florida – All People are Equal Members of One Human Family”.

Randy expounds, “Hookers, homeless, gays, business people, musicians, tourists, jerks, deadbeats, lovers, politicians, and hard working bar managers… Tony welcomes them all.”

The Church could learn this lesson.

But caring for other people is really not a new concept. My parents embodied this concept, my grandparents embodied this concept, even Jesus embodied this concept. So the “Life Lesson” that Manard learned from Tony Tarracino was simply an old idea that seems to have gone out of vogue.

Even in Iowa.

The rest of the book is an uncritical tribute, the recounting of Capt. Tony’s adventures by the old man himself. These are stories the captain honed over more than 40 years of sitting at his namesake bar, entertaining tourists already primed (lubricated?) and willing to believe the Legend.

Did he really participate in an attempt to overthrow “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who ruled Haiti from 1957 to 1971, by running guns and ammo for the rebel forces? We can’t confirm that; it was a top-secret mission.

Did he once have a run-in at a cock-fight with “Baby Doc” Duvalier, ready to take on the heavily armed dictator-in-training over a $500 bet? Can’t confirm that one either.

Was he really recruited to help ferry U.S. government agents to Cuba after Castro took over in a failed attempt to assassinate the Communist leader? Can’t confirm that one either… unless you want to believe the 1980 B-movie “Cuba Crossing”.

He did run for mayor of Key West four times before being elected in 1989. That is a matter of public record. So are his four marriages and 13 children. As for the rest, who knows?

Now, why would I question the many legends of Capt. Tony?

--Perhaps because I, too, have sat with old men who relive their glory years in stories that grow bigger with each telling.

--Perhaps because the “facts” in Manard’s book don’t always jive with other reputable accounts, presumably also related by the good captain.

--Perhaps because Manard was simply transcribing the oral memoires of a then 87-year-old man.

--Perhaps because it was obvious that Manard was so charmed by this charismatic hero of a Jimmy Buffett song that he was unable to filter out truth from fantasy.

Truth is, at the time of the writing of Manard’s book, Key West’s former mayor, Capt. Tony Tarracino, was a beloved old man who sat at a bar he once owned that still bore his name, who hugged all the pretty women like a toothless lion and entertained inebriated and sunburned tourists with tales of adventure and romance of another day.

Why wouldn’t I believe every word?

Call me cynical.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bro. Dave, Book Critic

Karen gave me a book for Christmas, a biography about the recently deceased Captain Tony Tarracino [see my blog from 11-03-08] called LIFE LESSONS OF A LEGEND.

Okay, I asked for it. It was being sold through Margaritaville.

It was about Capt. Tony. How bad could it be?

Well, I was soon to find out.

To be fair, let me say that I have not finished reading the book yet. But I’m on chapter 8 of 12, so I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on it.

I’ll write about Capt. Tony later. That part is interesting.

The problem is the writing.

I've never written a book -- adult ADD, I'm afraid -- but I think even I could do better.

The author is Brad Manard, a middle-age school superintendent from Iowa. Apparently, at some point between a high school-level creative writing class and a mid-life crisis, this pastey-white midwesterner decided to write the life story of Capt. Tony, a Key West institution.

He met the Captain while on vacation in Key West, which is not hard to do. In fact, on most days, Capt. Tony held court in his namesake bar, always happy to greet tourists and fondle young women who wanted to meet the legend.

A self-proclaimed Parrothead, Manard wanted to take off his wide necktie and polyester suit and cut loose in the land of Jimmy Buffett. Personally, I think he hoped that Capt. Tony would introduce him to his idol. In fact, he spills more ink in the first chapter about Jimmy Buffett than he does about the real subject of the book.

And he mentions Buffett in every subsequent chapter at least once.

Granted, I, too, am a Parrothead, but to borrow from the immortal words of Groucho Marx, ‘every now and then I take the cigar out of my mouth!’

Another drawback is that throughout the book we learn more about the author than we do about Capt. Tony. We meet Brad’s wife – whom Capt. Tony gropes as Brad stands idly by, feeling like he should be outraged, but secretly pleased that the 87-year-old Captain thinks his wife is a hottie.

He also recounts several alleged instances in which the good Captain refers to him as “a great writer” – NOT!

And we learn about the budget struggles of a school system in Iowa.


While talking about Manard’s credentials as an upper level educator and administrator, one can’t help but notice that he apparently didn’t use a proof-reader for his first book.

Brad, pay attention here: if one is walking aimlessly along Duval Street, one is “wandering”, not “wondering”!

Another problem is that he tries too hard to make himself out to be a local in Key West instead of the tourist that he is. He begins one chapter with,

“It was another sun-drenched morning in the sandy land of palm trees, so I had slipped into my comfort clothes, a white tank top adorned with an animated pirate parrot, cool khaki shorts, and suede leather flip-flops. I could easily be mistaken for a local strolling the deserted morning streets before the tourists began to emerge from a restful night in their lavish suites.”

Okay, here’s the deal. Not everyone who lives in Key West is a Jimmy Buffett fan. Believe it or not, the “locals” don’t wear parrot tank tops and suede flip-flops. Dork!

Then, as if to prove he’s become a “local” during his short stay on the island, Manard makes reference to “Key West Bright”.

Dumbass! It’s “Bight”! Look it up in a dictionary.

bight \ˈbīt\ noun Middle English, from Old English byht bend, bay; akin to Old English būgan to bend; 15th century. A bend in a coast forming an open bay; also : a bay formed by such a bend.

Throw in a little midwestern Baptist moralism, which is completely out of place here, and you've got a book, self-published as it necessarily was.

All that is to say that Brad Manard has only made it more difficult to read what should be an entertaining account of an eccentric old sailor.

Which is too bad. Capt. Tony deserved better.

In future blogs, I will try to distill the real “life lessons” of Capt. Tony. There really is a lot to be learned from the man referred to (repetitively so) as “the salt of Key West”.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Storm of the Century... at least for Memphis!

It snowed last night.

The local weathermen (yes, they are all men) indicated that we might get 1-2 inches that would mostly just stick on the grass.

I believed them. After all, they are professionals. This is what they do.

I sat amazed as the church-closings started rolling across the television screen early in the evening.


The official policy at Asbury UMC is that we will ALWAYS have worship. I will be there and the doors WILL be open. It is up to individual church members to decide if they should get out or not. I was confident my congregation would remember this.

Then, at almost 11 p.m., it was brought to my attention that the local channel was scrolling the announcement, "Asbury United Methodist Church will cancel services Sunday morning".


I called the TV station -- it was Asbury UMC in Ripley, TN... the news feed just didn't have enough letters to "give all that information"! A brief discussion ensued and the next time it scrolled around, the announcement read, "Asbury UMC-Memphis will hold services", "Asbury UMC-Ripley will be closed".

Then I went to bed.

Here's what I awoke to this morning.

That's half of my favorite tree -- laying on my favorite cable television line.

And that's our lawn furniture -- looks like summer will have to wait!

And that's the lamp post from Narnia -- who knew Narnia was in our backyard?!?

I don't claim this freak snow storm to be anything like what west Tennessee and western Kentucky got hit by in early February, but bear in mind that earlier this week it was 70 in Memphis... and the forecast calls for 70s again from about Wednesday on!

...but it was so bad that St. Francis put on his hat and cape!

*For those inquiring minds who want to know, about 1/4 of our usual congregation showed up for worship this morning. Worthwhile? You bet! That's 34 people who heard the Word proclaimed and received the sacrament. 'Nuff said!