Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Day In His Court

Thank you for reading Fundamentalists Drink Good Beer, Too. If you've enjoyed the posts here, please check out my new site http://adayinhiscourt.com/

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Will John Ellis Be Dead Soon?


In answer to the title, I can’t say for sure. I do live down the road from the Ronald Reagan National Airport; so, I suppose that a plane could fall on my head at any moment. If the answer is in regards to my heart, probably not. Most likely not. Of course, that all depends on your definition of “soon,” I guess.

But, since the subject has been broached, I should probably say a word or two about my heart. Two days ago (Thursday the 9th) I had my last stress test until January. My heart has no structural damage and there are zero blockages. My heart rate is fine, and my blood pressure, though a tad high, is fine. The bundle branch block is rate related. The thyroid tests came back negative, or normal (whichever is the good one). What is unknown is whether or not I’ve had the bundle branch block for a long time or if it’s a new. They don’t know because until my trip to the E.R. I had never had an EKG done, and so no one knows my heart history. If I have had it for a long time, that’s a good thing, I think. Many people have bundle branch blocks, and never have any symptoms or problems from it. But, if it’s new, they want to make sure that it’s not progressing. Hence, more tests in January. If it is new and progressing, which I think they are assuming that it isn’t, the best case scenario is a pacemaker. Pacemaker surgery is outpatient and, all things being equal, no big deal. Worst case scenario, … well, the worst case scenario doesn’t matter because it is statistically unlikely. So, the cardiologist sent me home until January with these instructions – live your life, including exercise and basketball, unless you feel symptoms, and take one aspirin a day. Oh, and my lightheadedness is probably just anxiety, so I’m supposed to stop being anxious.

Now, I’m willing to admit that my anxiety and fears were/are silly at best and downright self-centered at worst; but, that being confessed, contemplating mortality isn’t necessarily easy. I don’t know what it will be like at the age of eighty nine, but at the age of thirty nine, and with a wife and two young kids, being reminded of the fragility of life brought me to the end of myself and the end of my faith – and that was a good thing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Problem With My Heart


I am scared. As I sit at my desk, sick of the constant feeling of lightheadedness, I am acutely aware that something is wrong with my heart. Although I know in my head that it’s not yet a rational fear, I am scared that my three year old son will not remember that I tried to teach him how to catch a baseball. I am scared that my eight year old daughter will only have memories of the many times that I was impatient with her. I am scared that my beautiful wife is going to end up a single parent. I am scared because both my faith and my flesh seem to be failing me.
I am also embarrassed. Embarrassed because my fear may very well end up being unwarranted. But, in the moment, my fear does not feel like nothing. You see, two weeks ago I was admitted to the hospital with chest pains and dizziness. My EKG revealed that I have a left bundle branch block, and that kicked off a series of tests that continue this week with another stress test this Thursday as well as some thyroid tests. Most of what my cardiologists tell me I don’t understand; besides, all I can hear are words like “electrical system failing” and “pacemaker.” It was comforting for a moment to find out that my nuclear stress test revealed no structural damage to my heart and no blockage. But the constant dull ache in my chest, the constant dizziness, and the occasional shortness of breath shout down my nurse’s and doctor’s pleas to not worry, everything is going to be fine. Something is broken inside of me, and I have no control over it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Fundamentalist's Conversion


Catch up with the series here.

I made two stops before driving to San Francisco. At both stops, I almost decided not to move to California.   

My first stop was Milledgeville, GA, a small town south-east of Atlanta, and pretty much the opposite direction from where I was actually headed; I wanted to see Christine one last time. By June of 2004, she had moved into a house in her college town. Although I had stopped pretending to her that she and I were exclusive, she still claimed to love me. That week was rough. She cried a lot; I got high a lot. Although I wasn’t having any fun, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. That’s how my two day stop stretched into a week. One morning, we ate breakfast at a small café and bookstore in the small downtown area of Milledgeville. It was the sort of café that two liberal pagans[1] love. The kind of myopic place for people that fail not only to empathize with people and positions that disagree with them, but also fail to realize that the world is larger than their own specific ideologies allow room for. Anyway, we complimented the proprietor on her café, and had the obligatory liberal conversation about the variety of ways that the United States demonstrates its collective patheticness; and, how important cafes like this one are, especially in the hated South. Mission work is important, after all. The proprietor told us that unfortunately she was being forced to sell the place[2]. We expressed our condolences, and took our vegetarian breakfasts[3] to a table sitting on the sidewalk. 
While eating, Christine put down her fork and said, “I want to buy it and have you run it for me.”

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Fundamentalist In the Pigsty


Catch up with the series here.

Sitting in my car, while waiting for the rich kid from The Cliffs to come pick up his pizza, I lit a cigarette. The gas station that I was parked at off of HWY 14 in Blue Ridge was the appointed pick-up place for those who lived outside of the delivery area. Everything about the late-model SUV that pulled into the gas station and parked near my vehicle irritated me – the fact that it was new and expensive, the fact that it was being driven by a rich, college kid, and the fact that I wanted to be irritated. As the college age kid walked towards my car that was adorned with the embarrassing pizza delivery sign, I casually propped my feet up on my open door; leaned my head back; and smugly blew smoke in his direction. Stopping short, he looked taken aback by my smirking glare and the fact that I was obviously blowing cigarette smoke at him. After a few seconds, he haltingly and agonizingly said, “I ordered a pizza.” I replied, “Yeah? Well, you’ll have to wait until I finish my cigarette.” He stood there with his eyes trained on the pavement as I slowly smoked. I wasn’t counting on a tip. I didn’t care. I was after a moral victory. The selfish yuppie tipped me anyway.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Fundamentalist's Despair


Catch up with the series here.

Warning: there is a phrase in this post that most will find offensive. It is offensive; but it's what I said; and, I'm simply quoting myself. I, in no way, condone the phrase now.

Early fall of 2003, I arrived back in Greenville, SC after spending the rest of my traveling money partying in Pensacola. I had driven straight to Pensacola from San Antonia. By that point, I was tired of feeling alone and confused; I was tired of thinking. So, I called two of my old bosses in Greenville, and got assurances that I had jobs waiting for me; and then I blew through the rest of my money. I decided that the best way to shut-up my troublesome doubts was to have fun. Besides, the path to freedom from what I had recently discovered were the hypocritical constraints of liberal activist moralism appeared to lie down the wide, fast-lane of hedonism.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Fundamentalist Concludes His Pilgrimage


Catch up with this series here.

While on the middle of the Bay Bridge, my brother turned to me and said, “This was the bridge that collapsed during the ’89 earthquake.” By the time we were driving down Van Ness, his disconcerting comment had long been displaced in my mind with a child-like glee that I was finally in my Promised Land.

Driving to San Francisco from Vegas the day before had been somewhat anti-climatic. The state of California itself occupied a place of mystique in my mind; and when I passed that “Welcome to California” sign, I breathed a sigh of relief and allowed myself to get caught up in the emotion of reaching the end of my pilgrimage. Except I was still in the middle of the Mojave Desert, which is beautiful in its own right, but goes on and on and on. It’s hard to hold on to a premature emotional dénouement for miles and miles of desert. And then I reached Barstow, and thought, “Yes! This town is California.”[1] That recharging of my drama batteries carried me over the beautiful and wild Mojave Mountains. But Bakersfield was waiting for me at the base of the mountains, and all joyously tearful excitement shriveled upon realization that I had possibly discovered the country’s shittiest town. So, by the time I merged onto I5 northbound, I was tired of driving and my rapture at arriving in my Promised Land had petered out. Besides, California was one thing; San Francisco was another thing all together – my rapture could wait.