Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #19

Click the image to crank up the air

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Choosing Sides: A Scientific Poll

Moonshot and I have noticed a peculiar trend. We have no scientific basis for believing that it is a trend, but Emilie’s hilarious current post brought it to mind and I wanted to throw out the “scientific” poll on the side bar menu.

UPDATE: Emilie brings up a good point. I'm defining left and right from the perspective of someone lying face-up in the bed. Apparently designers define this differently. Sorry for the confusion. Feel free to change your vote if needed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #18

Click image for a Big Mack

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Monday, August 20, 2007

And Be There When I Feed The Tree

Mark asked the Gren, “Tell us about the first time you smoked a joint. Or, smoked part of a joint.”

I knew I was opening myself up to this sort of situation. In an open forum where readership includes high school and college friends as well as parents, grandparents, and in-laws; where members of my in-law’s church regularly swing by and where Norah herself may eventually read what I write here, I have been asked, straight out of the gate for my new “Ask the Gren” feature, to discuss my first experience with marijuana. What a fun little minefield to tiptoe through.

I’ll admit my first instinct for this was to just ignore it. Maybe meekly write back to Mark and explain my understandable reluctance to tackle this topic in such a public way. There’s a good chance he asked this just to watch me squirm. And besides, if I play along, won’t he just ask more and more challenging questions until he makes me crack? Cutting this sort of thing off at the start is certainly tempting. However, what fun is asking questions if the only ones that get answered are the ones I’m totally comfortable tackling?

In other words...fine, Mark, I’ll march into the minefield so that you can prop your feet up down there in Dallas and enjoy the tale.

And Be There When I Feed The Tree

The Lake of the Ozarks was a pretty weed-friendly place to grow up. Most of my friends were reveling in their love of nature’s psychedelic bounty by the time I was in eighth grade or so. If it weren’t for the huge stubborn streak that I still claim as my own, I’d have probably started down my road to herbal decadence at about the same time. But, I had little inclination to follow the crowd and staked my claim to a strange middle ground in the social dynamics of high school. I dressed in tie-dye shirts and rope sandals; I listened to my dad’s old stoner music from the 60s and 70s; and I studied all things hemp. I was fascinated by the counter culture revolution: Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury, etc. But I never partook of the drugs so openly endorsed by the era of my fascination and so freely available in the circle of friends I ran with. I’d sit in the circle and join in the insane philosophical discussions…but I’d simply and merrily pass the joint around.

There were several reasons for this I suppose. First, I had this idea that I was going to become a big time hemp activist once I got to college. I reasoned that my opinion would be taken more seriously if folks couldn’t quickly discount me as just another stoner. Secondly, while lots of my friends seemed to be having quite a bit of fun with their pot, several were smoking more and more and developing a habit that I just wasn’t too thrilled with. So, I sat on the side of the metaphoric pool and continued to size things up before jumping in.

As the high school years went by and graduation loomed, however, I began to give up on the dream of major legalization activism. I became more comfortable with the idea of smoking in moderation and came to feel that I’d rather smoke for the first time with my long-time friends instead of the mysterious and undefined friends I would make in college. So, on April 8, 1994, my friend Laska and I set off after dark, hiking up to the Elder Tree’s clearing on the hillside facing my mom’s house.

The town of Linn Creek is nestled in a valley, surrounded on all sides by the rolling Ozark Hills. Across the street from my Mom’s is a house. Behind that house is another house. Behind that second house is a large field that hosts a construction company of some sort, littered with dump trucks and piles of gravel. Beyond the gravel field, is the creek that gives the little town her name. And beyond the water raises the green slope that houses the bald patch. Over the years since, the mysterious patch has lost its geometric shape, but in 1994, it was a perfectly square patch of grass on a hillside that was otherwise uniform with trees. At the top and center of this patch was a massive evergreen, bigger than any other tree on the hill. The Elder Tree we called it as if this tree spirit had lay claim to this small parcel of land and none of the younger trees dared encroach. We felt it important to visit the Elder Tree on this auspicious occasion.

After finding the driest place to cross the creek, we meandered back and forth across the face of the hillside, tracking imaginary switchbacks through the thick Ozark underbrush to minimize the slope of our moonlit climb. We chatted about song ideas that Laska was working on and story ideas I was working on as we made our way through the shadows toward the general area we thought we’d find the clearing.

The moon was nothing but a sliver, but the sudden opening of the trees made the clearing seen fully lit after our time under the tree canopy. The expansion of our vision made the space feel as holy up close as it had looked from a distance. The Elder Tree towered over us to our left and the ground fell away to the tiny lights of the tiny town to our right. Above us, the stars spread in every direction through the clear sky. The ground was rocky and not nearly as plush as it had appeared from our yard, but we wiggled around a bit until we found relatively comfortable spots to recline.

We absorbed our surroundings for a while before Laska produced his metal pipe and for the first time…I didn’t just pass it. We lay there, passing the pipe back and forth, talking about college. I had been accepted to what was then called Northeast Missouri State in Kirksville and he would be heading to Culver Stockton, a small school on the Mississippi River. With only about an hour and half separating the two schools, we discussed how great it would be to be able to zip over and see each other as often as possible…a simple plan that was only enacted once for some reason.

Intoxication of any sort is difficult to describe. A sensation in your toe can be quickly categorized, but sensation in the organ you use to analyze sensation can be much more difficult. You don’t even notice it’s happening until you catch your mind in a thought process that just wouldn’t happen otherwise. It’s like falling asleep. A dream-like pattern slips into an otherwise normal thought and you’re suddenly aware that you are drifting away. In addition, it affects each person differently and can change depending on your mood. I would spend the next several years of my life trying to come up with metaphors and descriptors to properly capture the feeling of being stoned…but after all these years, I’m still not really able. But generally, I would describe the feeling as a falling away. As if my conscious and subconscious had temporarily switched places. I was a step removed from my senses, shrunken away into the recesses of my mind just a little. Wrapped up with processes that normally go undetected, noticing little details that normally go unnoticed, dreaming while awake.

We laughed.

Eventually, Laska announced that he was hungry, but I didn’t want to move because scenery was too perfect. I couldn’t absorb the stars fast enough or stare long enough. “Can’t we just stay here?”

“Don’t you want to eat something?”

“Sure, but to get that, I’d have to give up these stars.”

“Well, that’s life. I mean…you never know, the walk down could be even better than this.”

This struck me as infinitely deep…a perfect allegory for my fears of departing for college. We pushed ourselves up, said a polite “thank you” to the Elder Tree and headed back into the darkened canopy.

Whatever care we had shown while making our ascent was abandoned for the trek down. Switchbacks be damned, we strolled straight down toward the creek. I’ll admit the trip is mostly a blur to me, but I have snippets of leaning against trees and sliding on loose leaves, aware but unconcerned that my behavior would rightly be called “reckless.” I recall resting against the truck of a thick tree and being unsure whether or not I was imagining the slimy feeling against my hands. I pushed away to get a better view and my mind reeled, unable to make sense of the pulsing vision I was seeing. The bark was covered with slugs. No, not some drug-induced vision, but real, ooze-on-my-hands slugs. We stood for a moment or two as we attempted to invent a reason so many slugs would cluster on one tree, but eventually abandoned the questioning to continue our mission to find food.

At the bottom, we splashed our way through the creek, no longer concerned about staying dry.

We laughed.

Mom was away that night, out on the town with her friend, Pam. We put on Belly’s new Star album and made some snacks before returning to the living room to watch MTV. They were showing some sort of documentary on Curt Cobain, but we were having a horrible time making sense of what they were talking about. We just sat in silence, off in our own little worlds, staring at the screen and eating our Pop-Tarts.

“Wait,” I said. “Did they just say he died?”

“No, he’s probably just on tour or something,” replied Laska.

We sat quietly for another stretch.

“I…I’m pretty sure they put up one of those…those…date range things. Like he died.”

“No, they….” Laska froze. Kurt Loder was there on the screen, telling us to call a depression hotline if the news was too upsetting.

I think I may have said something akin to, “Oh, man.” Words may well have failed me even under the best of circumstances…but they were especially unforthcoming in my current state.

We turned off Belly and swapped the cd for In Utero.

So we sat there, Laska and I, eating Pop-Tarts, and then popcorn, and drinking Mountain Dew; discussing Cobain while the speakers crooned about Pennyroyal Tea.

The term surreal gets tossed around a lot. Quite often on this very site, as a matter of fact. But it really is the only word I know to describe that night. The only word I know to encompass both the stunning beauty and the bewildering news. The brightness of the stars and the darkness of the loss of "the spokeman of our generation."

I long ago packed up my bong and now opt to keep my subconscious mind right where it is. But, I wouldn’t trade that experience or the countless experiences that would follow for anything. Someday, when Norah is old enough to ask, I’ll have to decide how best to deal with such stories.

Compared to that…in-laws and church groups seem a breeze.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The One and Only Norah Lu

When Moonshot and I agreed on the name Norah for our daughter, one of the things we liked about it was that it was not common…but not strange. It harkens back to two grandmothers named Norma (one on my side and one on Moonshot’s) and also to my Great Aunt Eleanor. It seemed perfect.

For a middle name, Moonshot liked Louise for no reason other than it sounded nice and would allow her to call the little one Norah Lou. I suggested a small change to Norah Lucille since that was my grandmother’s name and Moonshot agreed. It was perfect. My Grandma went by Lu, so shortening the name to Norah Lu in common speech was actually even more of a tribute. Later it became even better because Lu could also stand for Lutine…my webby nickname for my daughter that worked perfectly with the Gren aspect of my own nickname. Simply glorious all around.

But I discovered something last week. It turns out we accidentally stumbled upon a rather unique name. Seems it’s surprisingly rare to shorten a middle name to “Lu.” Everyone wants “Lou.” Do a quick Google search for Norah Lu and you’ll find nothing but references to this site in the top hits. Eventually you’ll find someone with the last name of Lu…but that’s different.

I had no idea. But neither do I regret it. Perhaps my Grandma was odd in her choice of diminutives, but it always seemed perfectly normal to me. And if it’s true that we’ve granted a one-of-a-kind name for our daughter…perhaps that’s a fitting gift from Grandma Lu since Norah Lu, like her namesake, is a one-of-a-kind girl.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Reverend Moksha Gren

I couldn’t help giggling internally just a bit when I said, “by the power vested in me by the State of Iowa…” Such a lofty phrase…such an implication of authority. Somehow, I think the blurry jpeg print-out of an ordination certificate that rested in the back of my three-ring binder was slightly less awe-inspiring than the State of Iowa had in mind when they contemplated vesting power in the hands of ministers. They most likely would have been even less impressed had they known that I was outrageously tired due to a late night/early morning bachelor party that a “minister” had no business attending. And they may well have done their best to revoked this mysterious “power” had they known how badly I wanted to read the line as “And so…by the power of Greyskull…”

And when, exactly was this power vested to me? After I clicked “submit,” entering my name into the database at the Universal Life Church? Or was it transferred unto me only once my printer had finished producing my certificate? Whichever it was, the end result was the same, apparently. Power had been vested in me and I was wielding it with impunity over the weekend.

Now, don’t get me wrong…the powered I wielded was put to an absolutely beautiful purpose. But I still felt odd referencing this power as if the piece of paper really made me special in any way. To me…the real authority granted in this instance came when Taltap and Elsa asked me to officiate their wedding. It was their day and they invited me into it. That was the special moment. That was when I became empowered to perform wondrous magic.

Leave it to a bureaucracy to miss the fragile beauty of the scene while it focuses on the paperwork.

Not entirely coincidently, this concept of subtle moments was the theme of my sermon. And make no mistake…it was a sermon. When my college roommate/ Moonshot’s brother-in-law performed our wedding, he approached the speech with casual grace. He told the story of how we lovebirds had met and what role he had in the events. It was funny and personal and all around perfect for our day. I, on the other hand, found that I have some deep and poorly understood desire to stand before a crowd and wax philosophically about the deep truths of life. I suppose this should shock no one who knows me or who has ever seen me turn a simple question like “which remote do I use to turn on your tv?” into a 20 minute lecture on signal amplification and hub-based audio networking.

Anyway…I sermonized. A transcript of the speech can be found here, if you are so inclined. But the real wonder of the day was that when it was all over…Taltap and Elsa were husband and wife.

It was a very small ceremony…twenty people or so. And six of those people were under the arbor as part of the wedding. The day was hot enough to joke about and wish for lighter clothes than tuxedos, but not unbearable. The kind of hot that makes for good stories in later years. The ceremony itself was strategically short, designed to get folks back into the AC as quickly as possible. But, it was worth being outside...for the setting was astounding. Taltap’s parents hosted the event in their backyard, and "elaborately designed" does not even begin to describe this yard. And mind you, this is not some normal yard all dolled up just for the wedding. This yard is their hobby. Rivers and bridges and waterfalls in every direction. A little house rested in the back corner for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and a manufactured cave sat beside it for the dwarves to mine. I jokingly told Taltap’s dad all that was missing from the yard was a garden train. At which point he showed me where the train was going to be installed next year. Later that evening, during the reception, children ran joyously over the bridge to reach Snow White’s house. They delighted in turning the faux fireplace on and off and sitting at the miniature table. It was a truly stunning locale.

In the end, everything went smoothly on this, my first public appearance as the Reverend Moksha Gren. People kept telling me how wonderful it all was, as if I had really done much in the scheme of things. There was love before, there was love after...I just got up there and gabbed about it. But, the only two people whose opinion on my performance really matter seemed quite pleased with how it went down. And though I’ll still shake my head every time I think about the baffling “power” that was vested in me through the Internet, I continue to be honored to have played a role in the marriage of two of my closest friends.

UPDATE: For those of you "in the know" about the "The Gren Was Here" prank as discussed on both Simon and Amy's site. The letter-posting culprit is the wonderful lady on the far right in the second picture. I owe her a big thanks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #17

Click any image to make these gardens grow.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #16

Click image for monetary inflation

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Monday, August 06, 2007

A Resounding PLOP (and other assorted snippets)

St. Louis is Melting

We don’t get to play outside much these days. You see…it’s hot. It’s so hot they had to shut down at least one local road to fix buckling asphalt. It’s so hot cooling stations have been set up throughout the city to help folks without access to air conditioning. Basically, it’s too hot to do anything other than look out the window and marvel at how hot it is on the other side of the glass. During the winter months, I think of my Canadian readership with something akin to pity. Today…I would gladly teleport myself northward. Or perhaps I’d teleport them here so I could watch them stagger under the oppressive humidity. Both have their perks.

At the Sound of the Grunt…Run Away!!

I am thankful that my daughter grunts when she poos. This may seem an odd thing to offer thanks for…but I truly do cherish this trait. For one, it offers endless amusement to my wife and I. But more significantly, it kept us from having to rebathe Little Lutine last night.

Norah manically scooted about in the tub, chasing her bobbing toys while splashing great sprays of water onto both her watching parents. She giggles. She screams. And then grows very serious. She hunkers down. She grunts. I spring to action and hoist her from the water as quickly as I can. My reward is a resounding “PLOP” a mere instant after her little feet cleared the water line. Success!! Moonshot howled with laughter and Little Miss, for her part, looked about with confusion, unsure what all the fuss was about. Sure…we had to clean the tub and the toys, but we didn’t have to do it with super speed while distracting a naked baby so that we could resanitize our child.

Thanks for the warning, Norah.

Up, Up and Away

It seems Norah is to become a climber. It was probably inevitable with her father being somewhat of an irrational monkey who looks at the world as his own personal jungle gym. So, while it comes as no shock to find Norah pulling and clawing her way unaided onto the couch…it still fills us with dread. Her reach just keeps gaining height and we have to keep getting more and more clever to keep things out of her reach. But material destruction aside…I’m more than a bit concerned that we’re talking about a child who has yet to learn that head first is not the proper way to exit her parent’s bed. Onto this fearless child has now been bestowed the ability to climb.

I’m considering taking up praying.

So Many Pictures

As good as her word, Stephanie delivered a cd full of pictures from Norah’s birthday party. They are wonderful and beautiful…and overwhelming in their sheer volume. I will try to have them up soon…but between these and the shots Moonshot’s folks left with us…I’ve got some wading to do.

I did manage to post the July pictures up to but not including the party and I’m noticing a trend. She’s getting harder to photograph. She just doesn’t hold still anymore. Once upon a time, you should make a funny noise and capture a cherubic face. Today she runs from one toy to the next and makes it increasingly difficult to capture the cuteness we see on a daily basis. If I’m able to master this…I may have a career waiting for me in sports photography.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #15

Click the image...and it's almost like you're there.

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