Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

"Surrender the booty!"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trick or Treat!

Okay, this has to be the most adorable Halloween costume ever!

(Photo swiped from the Los Angeles Times)

Yes, it is almost time for all the little goblins to dress up and pillage the neighborhood. At the “Banana Winds” home office, we are ready for the onslaught – we have bought enough candy to feed 200+, “glow bracelets” (very popular last year!), and bonus coupons from Wendy’s & McDonald’s, left over from our church’s Fall Carnival.

Speaking of our Fall Carnival, we had another successful year! The crowd seemed to be a bit smaller, but there were no major crises and no trouble from the kids.

Your humble blogger dressed up as a pirate – a pretty good costume, if you ask me – but once again lost the costume contest, this time to a guy dressed up like his “grandmaw”. Nobody had a camera, so I don’t have a photo to share, but here’s a pirate pic I thought you would enjoy more!

Anyway, a few days after the Fall Carnival, I received the following note from a woman who lives in St. Louis:

“I was in Memphis recently and drove by your church and noticed that you are having a ‘Halloween Carnival.’ As a Christian, I was very surprised and disappointed to see such a worldly holiday being endorsed by an establishment that is supposed to represent our Heavenly Father. I don’t want to judge – but want to offer you some food for thought so in the future if your congregation continues to celebrate ‘Halloween’ at least you’ll know the meaning behind it.

“’My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.’ – Hosea 4:6”

She enclosed a leaflet that was undoubtedly copied and distributed in her church’s worship guide, “The History of Halloween”.

I won’t write here what I wanted to say to her, but here is what I did write back:

“Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

“Thank you for your recent letter, and for including your mailing address so I am able to respond to your misunderstanding of what we do at Asbury United Methodist Church.

“The event that you mis-identified as a ‘Halloween Carnival’ is our annual Fall Carnival, which we have provided for the community for many years. The date is two weeks prior to Halloween. We do not celebrate evil in any manner. There is no ‘Haunted House’ and we discourage ‘scary’ costumes. In fact, because the income level of the neighborhood is low, most of the children do not even wear costumes.

“It is not for a ‘lack of knowledge’ that we hold this annual event, as you suggest. The congregation has dealt with this question for many years. I have dealt with this question myself since high school. I am familiar with the Pagan roots of All Hallow’s Eve, as I am with the Pagan roots of Christmas and Easter. However, just because something was once Pagan does not mean we can’t re-tool it for Christian purposes.

“At Asbury UMC, we are proud to provide a safe setting in a dangerous neighborhood, a place where the children of our neighborhood can come and have an evening of fun. In fact, the Carnival is our most successful outreach event, bringing in more than 200 people from our diverse community, whereby we can meet them, show them Christian love and hospitality, and invite them to return to participate in our other ministries as well. The carnival also yields several thousand dollars for mission outreach.

While I appreciate your concern, I find very few people in America who still believe that the souls of the damned are called from their graves on All Hallow’s Eve. I find even fewer who believe one can appease the spirits with food offerings, or scare them off with a carved-out pumpkin. I don’t think even you would admit to the idea that black cats are really evil persons turned into cats. These are all superstitions from a pre-scientific period of history.

“In America today, Halloween is far-removed from its Pagan roots. It is nothing more than a harmless exercise in creativity, giving children a chance to be a princess or a cowboy or a police officer – if just for an evening. And, when not subverted by well-meaning people like yourself, it gives us adults the opportunity to affirm that creativity with gifts of candy and prizes.

“Again, thank you for your letter. If you are in Memphis again next year when we hold our Fall Carnival, I invite you to come see for yourself what I write to you now.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Today marks the anniversary of the famous “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”, October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona.

As Wikipedia is quick to point out, the gunfight was not actually at the O.K. Corral, as depicted in later movies, and it wasn’t the worst gunfight during this period in the wild west.

More foundational myths destroyed!

But something about that event has captured the imagination of the American public, spawning numerous dime novels, movies and TV/movie references, immortalizing the key players like Wyatt Earp and “Doc” Holliday, even the Clanton brothers. If you want to catch up on the details, rent the 1957 “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” starring Burt Lancaster, or “My Darling Clementine” with Henry Fonda (1946). Avoid “Tombstone” (1993, with Curt Russell), and don’t even get me started on Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp” (1994).

An interesting aside, the recent resurgence of interest in the gunfight has brought flocks of re-enactors to Tombstone for annual street performances. The problem is, unlike, say, a Civil War re-enactment which can accommodate hundreds of men in either blue or gray, there were only a total of ten men involved in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. In short, there can only be one Wyatt Earp strolling the main street… not a hundred. So last year the town of Tombstone tried to make the re-enactors buy a permit to ply their trade. But that was not a popular decision and, fearing an adverse affect on tourism, the idea was dropped.

The discussion of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is timely today, as Wikipedia boils the issue down to two views: Pro-Earp followers view the gunfight as a struggle between "Law-and-order" against out-of-control Cowboys; Pro-Clanton followers view it as a political vendetta and abuse of authority. One could almost replace the names of the two factions with the words “Democrats” and “Republicans” and describe the political climate today.

In fact, according to the Commercial Appeal, a Tennessee state legislative committee “voted to send letters to the other 49 state legislatures, inviting them to join Tennessee in a ‘working group ... to enumerate the abuses of authority by the federal government and to seek repeal of its assumption of powers’ and mandates it has imposed on states.”

Is there another “shoot-out” in the offing?

Note to the F.B.I. – that was only a metaphor. “Banana Winds” in no way condones violence in any form, or acts of aggression against the government or any governmental figure.

Final note: although Wyatt Earp has become famous as a lawman (he was deputized for the gunfight), while living in Tombstone he primarily worked a mine and was partner in a couple of gambling operations. After the gunfight and the following Earp Vendetta Ride, Wyatt spent much of the rest of his life running gambling houses in San Diego, CA.

He even traveled to Hollywood where he met a young actor named Marion Mitchell Morrison, who later used his meeting with Earp as the basis for his lawman persona under the stage name John Wayne.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shark Sighting

There’s a new restaurant in town!

The owners took the old “Steak and Ale” building…

And (after $1 million in renovations) turned it into this!

Sharkey’s has been open for business for about a month now. When it first opened, it was only open for dinner. But as I was driving to Back Yard Burger on Wednesday, I saw a sign:

No, not the Grail!

The sign said, “Now open for lunch!” I made a u-turn on Poplar and headed back.

The owners of Sharkey’s want to give Memphians a restaurant with the feel of Destin or some other gulf coastal resort. They tore out the dark wood paneling and stained glass windows of the countryside English Tudor tavern, opened up walls, and gave it a bright coat of paint.

They even added a deck – which will be great during the summer.

Not so great right now.

Inside, the walls are a bit bare – as in completely. It looks like they ran short on the decorating budget. And a large aquarium between the bar and the lobby awaits the arrival of fish. Yes, you guessed it - sharks. Right now it only has rocks, an angelfish, and an eel that was as fascinated by me as I was by it!

Speaking of the bar, in keeping with the theme, Sharkey’s carries “Landshark” Lager on tap!

The service was professional, in that southern way. (“What can I getcha, Hon?”) But for some reason, here as at another local restaurant recently, the waitress felt the need to touch me on the shoulder every time she walked away.

Stop touching me already!!!

How’s the food, you might ask?

The cup of gumbo I started with was some of the best I’ve had in Memphis. And being the host of an annual Fat Tuesday party, I’ve sampled gumbo from most of the restaurants in town.

I followed the gumbo with a tray of sushi. I know, it’s an odd combination, but I was just sampling. Sharkey’s sushi menu is limited but proved to be remarkably fresh. Unfortunately, they were “out of chop sticks”, so I had to use a fork. Sigh.

I’ll have to return soon to try dinner. They claim to have a fresh-catch on the menu that is flown in daily.

And where is this place located? According to their ads:
LATITUDE 35° 6´ 4.1" N

LONGITUDE 89° 51´ 26.4" W

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Election Day in Memphis

Today is election day in Memphis. Following the mid-term retirement of Mayor Willie Herenton, a special election is being held to name his replacement.

Among the 25 candidates who are on the winner-takes-all ballot today are A.C. Wharton, current mayor of Shelby County; Myron Lowery, the interim mayor of Memphis who recently "fist-bumped" the Dalai Lama; “Prince Mongo”, a perpetual candidate who believes he came from the planet Zambodia; Ernest Lunati, who spent two years in prison on a pornography charge; Jerry “The King” Lawler, a professional wrestler; and a bunch more of the usual suspects.

Then there’s “Silky” Sullivan. Silky is the proprietor of Beale Street’s most famous bar “Silky O’Sullivan’s”. Legend has it that Silky was a regular at another Memphis establishment, but when the bar owner demanded he settle his tab, Silky went down the street and opened his own bar. “Silky O’Sullivan’s” features live music, goats in the courtyard, and drinks called "Divers", which are served in large plastic buckets with long straws to share with friends.

Silky’s primary campaign initiative is to give the long-vacant Memphis Pyramid to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I don’t know if St. Jude’s wants it, or could afford the $20 million upgrades needed, but it’s a noble thought.

Local pundits say that A.C. Wharton will most likely be elected today. “Scientific polls” conducted by the local media have Wharton collecting 53% of the vote. Only two other candidates have achieved double-digits in the pre-election polls.

But let’s not count out Silky Sullivan yet. While doing an internet search for info on the candidates, I ran across a “Wikipedia” entry for another famous “Silky Sullivan”, an American Thoroughbred racehorse.

Silky Sullivan (the horse), also known as “the California Comet”, was famous for falling far behind in the pack, then charging to a winning finish. He often overcame 20-30 length deficits to steal a victory. His greatest feat came on February 25, 1958, when he came from 41-lengths behind to win a 6 ½-furlong race.
The term “Silky Sullivan” is now used in both horse-racing and politics to describe someone who seems so far out of competition that they could never win, but they do.

We’ll see what that means for Memphis politics as the votes are counted tonight.

Post-script (11 p.m.): A.C. Wharton has been declared the winner, receiving 60% of the vote (65,491 votes). Prince Mongo came in 10th (267 votes); this time Silky Sullivan did not do a "Silky Sullivan", finishing a distant 15th (51 votes... someone buy that man a beer!).

Congrats to Mayor Wharton.

Of course, now a special election will have to be held for the position of Shelby County Mayor... Any takers?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears... Oh, My!

If you live around Memphis, you've undoubtedly seen the billboards touting the Mephis Zoo as "the #1 zoo in America!"

I don't think the billboard says who ranked the Memphis Zoo as #1, but I have been to zoos in St. Louis, New Orleans, Denver and San Diego (just to name a few), and the Memphis Zoo is, by far, my favorite!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a couple hundred thousand words to back up my claim!

BTW, all photos were taken with my IPhone!






Polar Bear...

Sea Lions...

And then the newest area, the Teton Trek...

Complete with Lodge and Geyser...

Built for this guy...

And his friends...

And the Grey Wolves next door...

The Memphis Zoo... an amazing journey around the world... in about a day!

Take my word. It's worth the trip!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Game One: Thursday, 8:37 p.m. central

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There ought to be a law!

I was reading the LA Times online last night, searching for information about the poorly-named “Sheep Fire”, a forest fire burning in the San Bernardino Mountains north of my seminary. THe school is not in danger... at least from the fire. But that's another story.

The Cal-Pacific Annual Conference also has a camp at Wrightwood. The fire came within two miles of the camp, but all is well for now.

As I was reading the news, I came across two stories that bothered me. And so I will share.

According to the LA Times, Tufts University (a liberal-arts college near Boston) has just instituted a new rule for students living in its dormitories. Here’s what it says:

“You may not engage in sexual activity while your roommate is present in the room… Any sexual activity within your assigned room should not ever deprive your roommate(s) of privacy, study or sleep time.”

Do they really need a rule for this?

Apparently someone at Tufts complained – perhaps he was locked out of his room too often. I don’t know. But the administration took action; now there is a rule.

And a rather odd rule at that!

In a similar vein, another article in the LA Times reported on controversy at the Richard Nixon Museum in Yorba Linda, CA.

Operation of the $21-million privately-funded museum was turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration in 2007.

Critics of the museum have long said it makes the impeached president look too good.

I’ve toured the museum. It was an amazing look back upon the life and administration of the first president I was ever cognizant of.

Is it historically accurate? Who’s to say. But, hey, it’s his museum; his friends paid for it. It can be whatever they want it to be, right?

Apparently not, now that the federal government is running the show. Many of the exhibits are getting an overhaul, from Kent State to Watergate.

In the museum are statues of world leaders during the Nixon presidency, leaders about whom President Nixon once said, “They are leaders who have made a difference. Not because they wished it, but because they willed it.” The former president personally selected the statues for the museum.

And for 20 years, they have stood / sat there – Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, Leonid Brezhnev, Anwar Sadat, Golda Meir, Winston Churchill. Just to name a few.

But last year, Kai Chen, an LA real estate investor and former member of the China national basketball team, was touring the museum with his American-born wife. He was “appalled and shocked” to see the statues of Mao and Chou.

He protested that same day.

Chen’s relatives had suffered under the Mao regime. “Mao was the biggest mass murderer in human history,” he shouted at museum officials. “How can that image be put alongside world leaders like Winston Churchill and De Gaulle? It’s a perversion of American freedom. You don’t put an anti-American symbol in a U.S. museum.”

He has no complaint about the statue of Brezhnev.

Chen has launched a campaign to have the statues removed. And he may prevail.

My question regarding both the Tufts University rule and the conflict at the Nixon Museum is, how far do we have to go to appease the concerns of a single individual?

Regarding the Tufts rule: when I was in college, although sex in the gender-segregated dorms was strictly forbidden (snicker, snort… guffaw!), roommates worked out special arrangements, warning signs to indicate when one should not enter. A necktie on the doorknob was usually sufficient.

So instead of a campus-wide rule, perhaps a simple conversation between roommates would suffice. And maybe a swirlie!

With regard to the museum exhibit, I believe a conversation might be in order there as well. I understand that Chen feels pain when he looks at the image of Chairman Mao. But that particular exhibit represents world leaders in the Nixon era, and China’s Mao was significant to Nixon’s legacy. We shouldn’t rewrite history and leave out one world leader simply because he isn’t as snuggly and loveable as Mr. Churchill.

And if Mr. Chen doesn’t like the statue of Mao, he doesn’t have to pay the $10 admission to see it again.

Sadly, it seems we have become a nation of whiners and complainers. Unable / unwilling to deal with our own problems, we insist on government intervention. “There ought to be a law!” And if we can make enough noise – especially during an election year – there often is one… whether it makes sense or not.

Sigh. Margarita, anyone?

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Okay. I don't use a lot of superaltives in my blogs, or even in my every day chattting. I'm not one to identify "my favorite this" or "the greatest that".

But you have got to go see the movie "Zombieland"!

[For my anti-authoritarian readers out there, that is not a command; I just think you would like it! Sheesh!]

Seriously, "Zombieland" is the funniest movie I have seen in a long, long time! It makes "Shawn of the Dead" look like a documentary!

I won't tell you anything about it, because I want you to enjoy it just as I did.

But you need to see this one!