Saturday, March 14, 2009

Psalm 102

The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth/to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death...

I am reading Psalm 102 this morning & this catches my attention.

I spent Wednesday afternoon touring Alcatraz, the infamous prison in the San Francisco Bay. We took a boat over to the island, disembarked, and were instructed a bit in the history of this island. It was many things, including a military compound, before it became a prison. After after it was closed down by the city of SF because it was too expensive to run, Native Americans came in and took over the land. They were soon kicked out, and the island was taken under the city or state's national park program.

The rock was a prison for roughly 30 years, which is far shorter than I had realized. We toured everything from the warden's house to the social hall to the cell blocks to the recreation areas. The cell blocks were the most haunting. Al Capone was housed in Cell Block D, which was for the worst of these misled souls. There were cells in this block that were a decent size, but they weren't allowed out at all, unlike the other cell blocks. And then, there was solitary. Confinement without light for days on end.

Walter has written, or at least spoken to me, of the way that the prisoners were so isolated from society. If the wind blew just right, they might be lucky/unlucky enough to hear trailing sounds from the shore. It seems like these sounds would be both wonderful - connecting them to something from which they came, which they could remember - and horrible - reminding them of their extreme isolation.

This recent venture is why this verse from Psalm 102 called out to me as I was reading through it.

Our cries from the rock - the earth - are haunting, desperate, loud, frequent, and frustrated. God heard those cries and came after us, saving us from our own isolation. Our souls heard the soft, stealthy music coming from the other dimension in which we truly belong, and we consider ourselves lucky and unlucky to hear them. For they make us long for our true destiny, for our true nature and for our true God. But they also remind us how we have fallen and are not yet able to get to that other dimension.

Longing. Beauty and Hope in isolation. This is the difference between Alcatraz and Christianity. There was very little, if any, hope in Alcatraz. Even an escape to the exterior of the prison, which was near impossible, meant you were faced with about a mile swim in shark infested waters. If you were lucky. And if you weren't - and you were caught - you were punished with a ball and chain upon your return. Good luck swimming with that, the guards would say, smirking.

This has all been said before; I think that the reason I wanted to write about it was simply a better understanding of the desperation and separation of the Rock as compared to the Savior of Humanity.

Nobody hears the cries from the Rock.
The creator of the Universe hears the cries from this rock.

Meaningless humanity made ever important through Christ.

Life, lately, is a seemingly endless array of minutes, hours and days. I find that without a job, or school, or church, to keep me aligned with what day of the week it is, it's near impossible to remember. Every morning, I wake up and ask Mel or Wally what day it is. I find that they often take a few minutes to try to recall themselves.

It seems that thus far, our flights have kept us semi-grounded in the day of the week, when we ARE able to remember. We know we leave for San Fran on Wednesday. We also leave for LA on Saturday (tomorrow) and for Fiji/Sydney on Monday, very late at night.

But what happens when our last real connection to a day disappears, following Wednesday (our connection to Sydney from Fiji)?

Walt told me today of a camp he attended where the attendees were required to give up their watches. They could tell approximate times from the sun, sure, but real connections with the exact time were lost. Only the counselors and/or coordinators of this camp were privy to such information.

I begin to wonder, as I continue to feel lost in my days, what relevance this has to the picture of life. Does it matter whether today is Monday, or Thursday? I have no real commitments once we leave the states, so what relevance do time and dates have for me, really? Do I need to keep a calendar with me, marking off my passing life, or is it more reasonable to simply be instead?

Do days matter?

I'm guessing that once LOST in Australia catches up with where we are (I think it's about 3-4 weeks behind), we will organize our weeks by Wednesdays.

It's very bizarre to feel so unaware of something that recently held such significance for my life.

And on we go...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Blackjack at the Hard Rock

Today we are in Las Vegas. We arrived here again last night from the Grand Canyon around 7pm. We checked into the Hard Rock hotel, which is just off the strip, and hung out in the gigantic room for a while, trying to recover from the 5 hour drive.

I needed alone time last night, so Mel and Walter went off on their own. I went downstairs to play Blackjack. What I love about blackjack is that if you sit down at the right table, you can have a fantastic time with the other players. I love players who are excited and optimistic. They stand up, or sit down, and they ask for the cards they want. They do it like they are commanding an army, demanding pushups or something: "Come on Dealer! Give me that 4! You know I NEED that 4!" And sometimes the dealer gives them a 4, and sometimes the dealer gives them a 10, but they usually don't lose their optimism. These are my favorite types of people to play with, especially on a hot table. They dance around, yelling for blackjacks and tens like they are preaching on a Sunday morning, inflamed with excitement and obsession. These are the type of people who make you look across the casino at their table and consider leaving your own perch to join their fantasy world, where the house doesn't always win.

So, I sit at a table with 3 guys (I tend to gravitate to these tables, because often they know how to play BJ by 'the book', thereby increasing my own odds of winning. I sit at 'Third base', as they call it, which is the seat directly before the dealer. I also tend to gravitate to this seat or 'First base' (the first chair, always the first hand dealt). What's interesting is that the luck of Third Base is constantly changing as people sit and leave, where First Base is always the first hand dealt. So I sit by this guy, I forget his name, but I'll call him Timmy for kicks. I sit down by Timmy and immediately like him. "What's your name? I'm Timmy." "Jeanne" I reply, "How's this table doing tonight?" So we carry on the intro conversation that's so common at these places. He makes me laugh, even though he's more of a pessimist than an optimist. He's also one of those guys who consistently interacts with the dealer, calling her by name, tipping her, etc. One of the other guys at my table is quiet, so he doesn't talk much. The final guy is a German from Bavaria. This makes for an interesting time when the dealer changes and a Bosnian-American sits down to give us our cards. She talks A LOT more than the last dealer, giving the German a hard time, casting out her opinions on everything from discipline for her stepkids to German-Bosnian relations to how effed up (her words, not mine) America is, despite her adoration for it.

At first, the dealers are consistently taking my money. I'm winning a few hands, so I stick around, but I get down to about $25 out of my original $100 after about 45-60 minutes. But then our table gets a great shoe (8 decks, the place the cards are dealt from) and I go on a roll. A while later, I'm up about $75, and I leave the table as it cools off. I head to another table after wandering around the Hard Rock lobby a bit, and win another $25.

I find a $10 single deck BJ table (my favorite type of black jack) and stand behind it. There are 5 guys at the table, with 1 seat open. I ask one of the guys if I can sit and he nods his approval. I sit after the deck finishes. These guys are AWESOME. They are what I would label biker-rockers. They have long dark hair. One of them has on a cowboy hat - but it's a rocker cowboy hat, not a genuine one. The first thing the one to my left says as I sit down (because I don't look like your stereotypical BJ shark) is "You better know to hit a 16 against a 17." I smile grandly at him, because I adore his no bullshit introduction, and assure him that I know most of the rules, and I ask if I don't. There is an audible sigh of relief as I tell him that and we play the game. Despite the fact that I lose $87 in probably 15 minutes, which is most of my winnings, this is my favorite table of the night. They tell me their favorite parts of Australia (Brisbane being the best, apparently) and wish me goodbye as the dealer takes the last money I am willing to part with.

This is how I end my evening - walking to the cashier's cage with $113. I realize that many people see gambling as wrong (and it certainly can be addictive and destructive), but it's purely entertainment to me. I walked away $13 richer and several hours of enjoyment later, I am happy to head to bed. 

About Me

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I live amongst the dragons and the warriors of the 21st century. I surround myself with both the peasants, the aristocrats; the knights and the maidens. For a long time (now quite in the past), I wove the structure of my life around the mold others saw for me. I've since learned to live for God and myself. Freedom comes and goes as I remember this lesson of mine. But my life is MY life: a series of events and remembering such. And this, this beautiful montage, is why I wake up every morning. God willing.