E.T., Phone Alamogordo…

I wrote a blog earlier about how a bunch of Atari video games had been buried in a landfill near Alamogordo as the company was slowly dying in the early 1980s.

Sources say 29 truckloads or almost 800,000 games which could not be sold were dumped in the Alamogordo landfill apparently because the company was in financial stress and the games did not work with the company’s newest game console. After word leaked out that the games had been dumped, people began to sneak into the landfill and pilfer the brand new games. Eventually the dump site was covered over in concrete and people forgot about the treasure trove.

Atari logo

Computer game nerds eventually tracked down the dumping site again and in 2014, with assistance from the city, recovered 1,382 games, including the newly released “E.T” game. About 800 of the games that were recovered were sold in a benefit auction that netted about $107,000 for City of Alamogordo public works projects and the Tularosa Basin Historical Society.

Apparently, 283 more games were kept in seclusion after the 2014 “dig” and will soon be offered on auction on E-Bay, again with proceeds to benefit public works projects in Alamogordo and the Tularosa Basin Historical Society. One hundred of the games will become part of the historical archive. The last time the games were auctioned, the most popular “E.T.” game fetched between $800 and $1,535 per copy. A peek online last week showed that a pristine unopened version of Atari’s “E.T.” has been offered to up to $3,199 on E-Bay.

Now if you’d just kept that Atari console…

The date that the games will be offered in auction has not yet been released.

New Mexico has a long and successful history of gold, silver, copper and other mineral mining, oil and gas production and even mining operations for turquoise and other gems. Now digging underground has produced another kind of financial benefit for the state.

Wish she’d come to Alamogordo…

And on a side note, I think it would be really cool if Drew Barrymore would come to Alamogordo to help promote the auction.

We won’t get a great rating on our squirrel airbnb…

Our semi-rural neighborhood has always had lots of critters running around in it — skunks, raccoons, foxes, squirrels and even an occasional javelina. It makes the place interesting as long as they don’t invade the house, spray our dog Chester or dig up the yard.

Three weeks ago, we went on a week-long trip to visit our grandkids in California and kept Chester at a kennel during that time.

Apparently that was all it took for the local ground squirrels to decide that our back yard had become abandoned and they proceeded invade a woodpile in the southeast corner of the property. A squirrel airbnb, so to speak. We started noticing them as soon as we came back — a couple of larger adults and a squoggle (my word) of cute babies.

They began to mercilessly torment Chester, who would dash out the back door when he spotted one and fruitlessly try to catch it before it ducked into the cover of the woodpile. Eventually, he snagged one of the baby squirrels, which I guess for a dog is some kind of a rite of passage. He didn’t kill it, but flogged it around in front of us so we could see how brave he was in protecting our home from the rodents. Clearly maimed, I picked it up while it was still lightly breathing and placed it somewhere that I hoped it might recover. I didn’t see it again the next day, and I suspect a cat, fox or sunk may have done it in.

At this point, my wife and I figured we probably needed to do something to get rid of the obvious nest that had been established in the woodpile. We went to Tractor Supply and bought a humane trap and set it out. We used apple slices slathered with peanut butter and topped with pecan half as bait.

In the first day we caught two, one an adult and the other a baby. I caught three more babies last week and am hoping I can snag the four or five more that I believe are still cavorting inside the woodpile and laughing at us and Chester.

A cute guy awaiting a new country home…

I have released all of them west of here in an open field lined with trees on one side, a pecan grove on the other and an irrigation canal nearby. I thought it would be a pretty friendly place for the critters. I hope they all make it and don’t make life too difficult for other homes that are nearby. I do worry that they might get squished while trying to cross the nearby road, but they’re pretty quick. As smart as they appear, I hope they’ re not like dogs or cats who routinely make it back to their original homes.

And we hope they’re sending negative reports to airbnb about our squirrel condo so that others won’t think it’s a cool place to visit.

We’re thinking a squirrel review might read:

“It was a nice place to stay, but it was disconcerting when we noticed many of the guests suddenly disappeared while investigating this large metal thing sitting at the edge of the woodpile.”

Snap. Squeak.

No politics, just ailments…

I attended a high school reunion in my home town Ruidoso last weekend, It’s the third or fourth one I’ve been to in the past several years. This one marked our 75th birthdays.

Usually, these events revolve around just two questions:

“Do you remember when we … ?

or

“Whatever happened to old so-and-so… ?

This year’s was a bit different, with much of the conversation focused on health-related issues — knee replacements, cataract surgery, heart issues, arthritis, etc. But as my good friend Jimmy pointed out, it’s actually a good thing because you know you’re not the only one going through these health issues now and you have a support base of friends who may help you cope with these annoyances.

I was pleasantly surprised that there were no political issues that were raised during the conversations at the retreat. I was a bit fearful of that, given that some of my classmates were likely on the opposite spectrum of my political philosophy and I didn’t want to have to wade into any of those kinds of discussions during an otherwise pleasant experience. I think it was a good reminder that most people are inherently good, kind and helpful if you just steer away from political discussions.

“Hail mighty Warriors, brave and bold, onward to victory Blue and Gold…”*

Of course, there were some great stories that were told during the weekend. I think forcing yourself to dig into these memories that have been filed away in the furthest corners of your brain is good mental exercise. I especially enjoyed reminiscing about our experiences on the Warrior football team. I didn’t think we won that many games, but my teammates seemed to have fonder memories of our on-field accomplishments, so that was good to hear. I also got to learn more about who I consider my two best friends from high school, Jimmy and Burly (known now more as Lewis).

Burly told a great story about how when he went to elementary school, his faithful dog accompanied him. His teacher allowed the dog to be in the classroom with him during the school day. At the end of the school year, the well-behaved pup got a report card from the teacher. I never heard what the dog’s gradepoint was, but I’m sure he passed. The dog even went to school on his own one day when Burly couldn’t make it. He also said his dog rolled over on his back at school at one point, exposing his private parts and prompting a female classmate to ask “does yours look like that?”

The three amigos, from left to right, Jimmy, Burly and yours truly…

And Jimmy told a story about another classmate named Spike who has become a bit of a free spirit and showed up unannounced at Jimmy’s home in Dallas a few years ago. Apparently not having any permanent place to stay, Jimmy graciously allowed him to bunk there. But Spike didn’t just bring himself. He brought his girlfriend at the time (who may or may not have been pregnant — I can’t remember), his dog and — get this — two parrots. The “visitors” eventually took over Jimmy’s living room as their guest room and stayed longer than Spike had said he would be there. The even-tempered and kind-hearted Jimmy eventually had to nudge them out of the house to reclaim the living room. At last report he (and the parrots) may be living in New Orleans.

Many of my classmates have been successful. Lots of them moved away to become professionals in widespread locations around the country. Several of them have stayed around the Ruidoso area, owning businesses, working in the local schools, contributing to the community, etc. And many of them have done a significant amount of travel. Although a few have died, a surprising number of us are still around.

All in all, not bad for about 50 kids who grew up in a small mountain town in southern New Mexico.

*Those are the words that begin the Ruidoso High School fight song, written by our own band director, LeRoy Gooch. I can still sing the entire thing, especially if I’ve had more than one glass of wine or other lubricant.

You heard about it here first!!!

You may remember that earlier this year I wrote posts about how Mexican bologna was being smuggled into the United States, much of it through New Mexico. U.S. Customs officials said smuggled bologna was a threat to all Americans and said it was “not funny” that people were making jokes about it.

I mean really, bologna as contraband? Stuffing a spare tire full of bologna to avoid detection? Smelling up neighborhoods in southern Dona Ana County by burning contraband bologna to protect us from ourselves?

I found it amusing immediately launched an in -depth investigation into why the processed meat from Mexico was suddenly such a hot commodity.

Through stealthy investigation, I located a store in Las Cruces which sold it out of a back room, purchased some, and drove home while fully expecting flashing red lights and sirens to chase me down. Once home, I conducted scientific taste tests and came up with these startling conclusions: 1. It tasted pretty much like Oscar Mayer bologna that you can buy at your local Albertson’s. 2. It was a little bit drier. 3. It was a little more expensive than the American-made stuff. 4. Chester, our dog, seemed to like it. 5. I did not die or develop any gastronomic malady from consuming it.

Your intrepid reporter, on the trail of an important expose.

Then after my story broke, National Public Radio broadcast an episode of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” which featured people chuckling about the absurdity of smuggled Mexican bologna.

But wait!!! Just this month, the magazine Texas Monthly published an article entitled “Why Are Border Smugglers Trafficking Bologna?” The article by Madeleine Aggeler was very well done and pretty clever. She spent a lot more time in her pursuit of “why Mexican bologna” than I did.

She concluded that for one thing, smuggling bologna from Mexico is highly profitable. For example, a nine-pound roll of bologna that costs $10 to $15 in Mexico can be sold in the United States for up to $120.

“The quantities of intercepted bologna are so large that it’s hard to believe that there are any pigs left in the world,” the author Aggeler muses. 

She also quips that when first encountering a confiscated tube of bologna, it was like “holding the hull of a Boeing 727 but made entirely of flesh.”

The reporter for Texas Monthly says residents of Mexico think the Mexican variety of bologna is richer and “more porky” — a subtlety that escaped me in my scientific taste test. 

But mostly, for Mexicans in the United States, it’s a taste of home — kind of like Vegemite in Australia or Spam in Hawaii. 

Below is a link to the Texas Monthly article if you want to read it. But remember, you heard about it first in my post on at Aero-Cordero.com!

https://www.texasmonthly.com/being-texan/bologna-seized-at-texas-mexico-border/

The Ford F-150 of Orange County California…

If you live in New Mexico, you either own a Ford F-150 pickup, will own one someday or know about dozen people who already own one. I think on birth certificates issued in New Mexico, there is a box you have to check that says that at some point, you promise that this child will own a Ford F-150. There’s a good chance the child was even conceived in the cab or the bed of a Ford F-150. I’ve concluded it’s basically a requirement for citizenship here.

As a contrarian, of course, I choose not to own one. I prefer GMC pickups, but that’s another story for another time.

My wife and I just returned from a week of watching grandkids in California while our son and his wife were guests of his company for what sounded like a spectacular recognition event. We were glad to spend time with our energetic grandsons, Max and Truman, but we did think longingly about our son and his wife relaxing on a beach in Hawaii.

What stood out most in my mind during our week in Irvine, CA, was the vast number of Tesla EV cars on the streets. I honestly think about every third car out there was a Tesla.

Years ago, when we lived in Santa Fe, Range Rovers were quickly becoming the vehicle of choice for trendy upscale Santa Fe residents. Just like Teslas in Irvine, they were everywhere. We even re-named a street intersection in Santa Fe “Range Rover Corner” because you could not go through it without spotting at least one of the British SUVs. But even today, when you see a Tesla in our zip code, it’s a novelty.

Like rats, they’re everywhere.

I get that EVs are the way of the future. But in a rural environment where we live, we need a few more accommodations to accept them as being truly practical. (Think about having to recharge your Tesla when you’re out of battery juice in the town of Reserve in Catron County. The county says you’re required to own a gun to live there (look it up), but I doubt availability of an EV charging station is on the county’s “required” list).

There were a couple of Telsa related moments on our trip.

The first one involved the possibility of rolling blackouts due to the heat wave in southern California while we were there (trust me, hot weather in Las Cruces is w-a-a-a-y easier to tolerate than in California where they aren’t really equipped to endure it). The local news media urged owners of electric vehicles to not recharge them during the heat wave to save power for more important things, like hospitals, lights, refrigerators or home air conditioners. Kind of an “ah-ha” moment, I thought, for Tesla owners.

The next event happened when I pulled next up to a Tesla at a stop light on a major thoroughfare in Irvine. From my ridiculously tall GMC pickup, I could easily peer into the cabin of the vehicle. There sat a man and a woman, intensely studying the screens of their i-Phones, oblivious to the real world around them and the giant centrally mounted infotainment screen in the Tesla cabin. They were oblivious to traffic because I’m sure they thought Tesla and all its technology would take care of them. I am confident the infotainment screen on a Tesla is way more advanced than the one in our new GMC pickup. I’ve suspected that if I poke around on my truck’s menu screens long enough, I’ll be able to really useful things like the mating season of nearby squirrels, skunks or javelinas.

So I suspect when the traffic light turned green, the passengers in the Tesla either got a blaring alarm on their infotainment screen or a bone-jarring vibration in their seat. It was Tesla telling them that they had to temporarily reconnect with the real world and actually drive the damn vehicle.

Okay, no more rants today.

Did I just get a job offer with a big $$$ signing bonus?

I got a letter last week with the return address for the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions on the left upper side of the envelope. It was a window envelope with what looked like a check of some sort inside.

Woohoo, I thought. I savagely ripped open the envelope expecting to find a fat check for something I had not been expecting.

Nope, didn’t happen. I forgot that I had written a blog about this just a few weeks ago. It was a report that the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Department, allegedly short on envelopes and strategic planning, started using envelopes some from another unrelated state agency, then stamping “MVD MAIL” on the right side near the postmark.

Inside was the title to our new truck, which was actually a good thing, knowing how sketchy the MVD’s performance can be in our state.

Note yellow highlighted return address on upper left and stamped “MVD MAIL” on upper right.

Now doesn’t that look like it would be a check?

Just too gullible, I guess.

Mosquitos beware…

You’ll need to take a long breath before reading the topic of this newly patented research project by the Colorado State University Research Foundation and Pebble Labs of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Here goes:

“A system for the biocontrol of disease-transmitting mosquitoes and their eggs using horizontally transferable symbiotic bacteria to deliver pathogen specific interfering RNA polynucleotodes.”

And now you’ll need to take a long breath to give your brain enough oxygen to process whatever that is.

Target of new patent

I ran across this mouthful of a development in the “On the Record” section of a recent Albuquerque Journal “Business Outlook” section. 

When reading local newspaper, I occasionally skim through legal ads, court rulings, want ads and other seemingly trivial topics and often come up with gems like this. 

I have no idea what this development actually does, but perhaps when I find out more, I’ll do a blog about it. 

In the meantime, if you’re a mosquito beware.  High tech is coming after you. 

Is that a pet rock or Uncle Vern?

If you pay taxes in New Mexico, part of what you sent to the state is now going to help an unusual new industry.

The industry, under the name “Parting Stone,” was recently given a $175,000 state economic development grant through the Local Economic Development Act to make sure the start-up business flourishes at its location in Santa Fe.

What the company does is produce rocks. Well, not just any rocks. They are “memorial stones” made from ashes of persons who have been cremated after their death.

The process of solidifying ashes left behind in the cremation process was made possible through technology developed by the Los Almos National Laboratory. About 40 smooth white stones are created from the ashes of an average adult human.

The president of the company, Justin Crowe, says the stones are better for the environment than randomly scattering ashes around. And, he says, they “provide something beautiful” for the loved ones of the deceased to hold or display.

“Parting Stone” memorial stones. Photo by Albuquerque Journal

So if you resisted the “Pet Rocks” fad a few years ago, here’s a way to make up for missing out on it. You’ll just have to wait for Uncle Vern to kick the bucket. 

Spelll checkqer doesn’;t weork hear..

I got comments from two friends about my blog regarding how the name of the city of Albuquerque (or Albuqueque or Alburquerque) seems to have missed the spell-checker when it was printed on a directional sign erected by the New Mexico Highway Department.

Here’s the link to that post, if you missed it:

wordpress.com/post/aero-cordero.com/3570

First, from my long-time but directionally challenged balloon crew chief, fly fishing wizard, and always entertaining Gloria, comes her comment that the city of Santa Fe can’t event spell her street name correctly.

The street she and husband Dave live on is actually one of the coolest street names I’ve seen, Calle Hawikuh, named after a Zuni pueblo from centuries ago.

Here’s what I found on Wikipedia about Pueblo Hawikuh (don’t always believe everything they say. Do your own research!!!)

“Hawikuh was one of the largest of the Zuni pueblos at the time of the Spanish entrada. It was founded around 1400 AD. It was the first pueblo to be visited and conquered by Spanish explorers.”

Too bad for the Zuni people. And of course, spell checker wants to change the name Hawikuh to “hawkish” or “haiku” or “haikus.”

And Gloria’s comment:
“And (The city of) Santa Fe could not get our street name correct either,” she lamented. “It is Hawikuh not Hawkuh. But our street sign won’t be fixed.”

And next, from my great neighbor and owner of Chester’s best friend, the golden-doddle “Sy,” comes this confession. When he went to buy a new dog tag for Sy, he misspelled his own last name.

Two peas in a pod. Sy ,left, and Chester, right. Except I might have mixed them up..

When my friend and I first played golf and I had to enter his name on the cart reservation form, I had no idea how to spell his last name. I fumbled with a pen and the reservation form and then, seeing I was having an issue, he spelled it out for me — correctly.

But at any rate, as he confesses in his recent comment, it’s a very long name to spell. And when it came to putting a last name to a new dog tag for Sy, he didn’t get it right.

Here’s his story:

“Recently my dog, with one of the shortest dog names in the state, needed a replacement engraved dog tag. I rushed down to the local pet store to print a new one. I, with one of the longest names in the state, misspelled my own last name on the tag. Unlike the State of New Mexico, I am generally not afraid that others see my errors. Besides it’s not hanging around my neck. A new one will cost $19.95.”

He even has a vintage campaign poster for a relative with his last name plastered on the wall of his home office. He looks at it every day, and you’d think it would be a useful reminder about how to spell his last name.

I get that my last name “Lamb” is a lot easier to spell than my friend’s last name.” So I’m not holding it against him for blowing a 2-amp brain fuse on this one occasion. My brain regularly blows them when I need even marginal thinking power.

Sy, however, might think otherwise, if he could actually spell. So if you see a large (near 100 pound) friendly, fluffy golden-doodle around our neighborhood wearing a dog tag with a last name that doesn’t seem to match his owners, don’t be confused. Sy doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and is just happy to meet anyone, even if you’re puzzled about what his last name is.

Cirsium vinaceum…

I hoped that headline would get your attention.

It’s the scientific name a spectacular variety of purple thistle that grows only along the waterways and canyons in the Sacramento Mountains of southeastern New Mexico. The common name is “Sacramento thistle.”

Sacramento Mountain thistle

I’ve always appreciated these plants with their purple puff-ball flower, sometimes growing as tall as six feet. I’ve found them mostly along the Rio Penasco and Augua Chiquita creeks, but you can encounter them almost anywhere in bottom of the shallow canyons of the Sacramentos. 

My wife and I spotted this and others on a recent trip to the mountains to get away from the 100 degree-plus heat we’ve been experiencing this summer in Las Cruces. 

I remember first seeing them when I was a kid growing up in nearby Ruidoso. We didn’t ever see them in our part of the mountains, but they were always evidennt when we drove about 40 miles south to visit Cloudcroft. 

Later on, when I began fly fishing on the Rio Penasco and the Augua Chiquita, I found them to be quite a nuisance. Because they were so tall and tightly clustered along the banks of these two small tributaries to the Pecos River, they made casting into the narrow pocket water difficult, with lots of flies snagged in their sharp leaves.

Unfortunately, the Augua Chiquita has likely lost its population of beautiful brook trout due to continued years of drought.  It was an interesting place to fish. You only got one chance per hole or stretch of water to catch the easily spooked trout. As soon as you pulled one from the water, any others nearby would duck for cover under the banks or scoot upstream or downstream. During spawning season in the fall, they are the most beautiful fish I’ve ever caught, with iridescent blue, orange and yellow spots on top of a dark green background and bright yellow belly and orange fins with white trim.

Image result for brook trout images

But as I said, sadly, the last time I checked on the Augua Chiquita, it was completely dry for most of the year. 

But back to the Sacramento thistle. I ran across an article from the U.S. Forest Service about the plant and found out some interesting things about it. It only grows across about 75 acres of land in the Sacramentos. It is currently listed as a “threatened” species. The thistle has specifically adapted to the travertine and limestone soils formed when the earth uplifted part of an ancient shallow sea which covered much of what is now eastern New Mexico and a large swath of Texas.  This part of the country is now known as the Permian basin, the oil and gas producing “breadbasket” of our nation. 

Here’s a link to learn more about rare thistle if you’re interested:

https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/cirsium_vinaceum.shtml

It’s worth the trip to drive up to the Sacramentos during the monsoon season to appreciate the unique beauty of the region. Besides the thistle, we found lots of other flowering plants to admire, including ones I photographed below.

wild yarrow?
wild daisies
wild snapdragon
rare blue flower
aster

Is it my car registration or a job offer?

Supply chain issues have been popping up everywhere as a result of the pandemic. Recently, one showed up in our state government that I suspect many people didn’t anticipate.

This one affected the Motor Vehicle Department. Those of us who have lived in New Mexico for years have stories to tell about the continuing bumbling by that department, which is often the first state agency that new residents to our state have to encounter. Long lines, surly clerks, confusing procedures and other maladies are why this agency is often criticized for its performance — or lack of it.

In July, the agency ran out of envelopes to mail documents and other important information to its customers — essentially anyone who owns a motor vehicle in the state. The agency’s solution was to borrow some from another state agency which had the return address of that department on it.

The agency which offered up the substitute envelopes was the New Mexico Workforce Solutions Department. It’s the agency that helps people find jobs in the state, breathlessly proclaiming itself as “a World-Class, market-driven workforce delivery system.”

So when this “world class” agency does a mashup with the MVD, we get confusing messages to people possibly thinking they’re getting a job offer instead of the registration to their 87 Chevy pickup.

A not so cleverly disguised envelope from your friendly MVD

In an attempt to make up for the misfortune of not having enough envelopes on hand, the MVD put a temporary stamp on the upper right-hand corner of the envelope saying it was really “MVD MAIL.”

As I recall, the MVD now falls under the wing of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, which might have been a better source of envelopes. I’m sure anyone getting a letter with a return address from the Taxation and Revenue Department — New Mexico’s equivalent of the IRS — would be more likely to take notice of that piece of mail rather than one from the Department of Workforce Solutions. That’s even giving them credit for being an agency that describes itself as “World Class.”

 

 

Trademark pending???

You might have read recently that THE Ohio State University has trademarked the use of the word “THE” when the school is referenced. The presumptuous move supposedly means no other university can use the word “THE” (all caps, please) when referring to the institution. Hence, there can be no “THE University of Humor Impaired of Southwest Wisconsin” or “THE University of the Severely Indecisive of Wyoming.”

I got to thinking about this last week when listening to a football game in which the announcer made a reference to “the Ohio State University fullback.” So now, should the correct reference be “the THE Ohio State University fullback?” A double entry, so to speak.

Well, it’s time to fight back. I propose that in the future, New Mexico State University now be referenced as “EL New Mexico State University,” capitalizing on our Hispanic heritage and beating the equally presumptuous University of New Mexico to the punch.

I’ve even started design work on t-shirts that EL NMSU could sell to protect this important naming right.

Get yours before they’re all gone!!!

Why “R” people having so much trouble spelling this town’s name?

East of Albuquerque, along Interstate 40 near Sedillo Hill, the New Mexico Highway Department placed a directional sign at an exit showing a town named “Albuqueque” was thataway.

Clearly, when the signmaker produced the sign, he or she didn’t notice that the letter “R” had been dropped from the name of the state’s largest city. And whoever was responsible for proof reading didn’t catch the error either. Or maybe spell check wasn’t working that day.

Do you pronounce it “Al-ba-cue-cue?”

A public information officer from the New Mexico Transportation Department, said it was an honest mistake and the sign was being replaced with the correct spelling. But, she added, “I honestly think it’s funny.”

Albuquerque’s name — how to spell it and pronounce it — has been befuddling people for years. Originally the town’s name, honoring a Duke in Spain, had an additional “R” and was spelled “Alburquerque.” Over the centuries, the extra “R” was dropped. Noted New Mexico author Rudolfo Anaya even wrote a novel entitled “Alburquerque.”

It’s not the first time the Highway Department has embarrassed itself with a misspelling on a sign.

Between Socorro and Truth or Consequences, there is a deep canyon with a major bridge on Interstate 25 spanning it.  Because of the steep decline entering the canyon, the highway department needed to warn truckers to slow down.

The sign posted at the lip of the canyon was “Vehicles With Trailors Must Reduce Speed” (or something to that effect.)

My good friend Joel, a college professor at the time, was so incensed by the misspelling that he contacted the highway department, saying that the mangling of the word “trailer” left visitors thinking New Mexico was illiterate.

His rant to the highway department was taken seriously, and the sign was corrected soon thereafter.

Maybe there is a conspiracy underway to remove all consonants in the city’s name. In which case Albuquerque might someday be known as “Uueue” — pronounced “You-Youee-Youee.” Maybe some rock band could put the new name to the tune of “Louie, Louie.”

 

 

 

A ministry of exposure…

As with most cities these days, we’ve seen an influx of homeless people. Because of the inviting shady and lush green park on the east side of our church, St. James Episcopal, we’ve been an especially popular place for the homeless during our recent heat wave.

One homeless visitor to the church was particularly entertaining and a little bit scary for some of our members.

My wife first discovered him when she was inside the church and opened the outside door leading to the sacristy. He was sitting on the sidewalk next to the door, dressed in a red and gold robe, new blue tennis shoes, a tattoo of his name “James” on his neck and not much else. After almost stepping on him, my surprised wife engaged in conversation with him while she was waiting for me to arrive to help her with a problem with the church sound system. The fact that she reacted so calmly to his presence was both surprising and gratifying to me.

James, at the sacristy door of St. James’

When I arrived, I talked to him a little more and asked that he clean up his “nest” by the sacristy door and be aware that he could be frightening to some of the older women who enter the church through that door to prepare for services.

Sure enough, a few days later, James was leaning on the door again when a member of the Altar Guild opened it and he halfway tumbled inside the church. She was frightened by the man and he eventually left without causing any more problems.

The following Sunday, when my wife and I were on the way to the church, I got a call from our Senior Warden (Episcopal-speak for head of the church governing board) saying James was at the side of the church again, this time wearing nothing at all. She had called to warn Margo not to use that entrance. She also said she had called police to respond to the situation.

When I got there, James was fully exposed for the world to see, wearing only his blue tennis shoes. He quickly began wrapping himself in his red and gold robe and put on some gold lame’ pants. I approached him and told him that I didn’t think it was appropriate for him to be at the church on a Sunday wearing no clothes. He pleasantly agreed.

About that time, the police arrived and approached the two of us.

“Let’s move along, James,” the officer admonished the homeless man.

“You know his name?” I asked the policeman.

“Yeah, he’s one of our ‘frequent flyers,'” he responded.

James wandered off toward Interstate 10 after gathering up his accoutrements, snacks and water and we haven’t seen on the church grounds since. We have spotted him walking along nearby University Ave. a couple of times,

Our visiting priest on the day that James appeared naked was Father Tom. He was unfazed by the incident and saw the humor in it. He tossed off the best quip of the day.

“I guess we’ll just have to refer to him as ‘St. James, the Naked.'”