false face

As a kid I don't remember so much Mom taking us to the store to buy costumes. Best I can remember, most Halloweens we just found stuff already in the closets and made something up at home. Scarecrows were always pretty easy. Take a pair of bib overalls, a flannel shirt and some straw and there ya go. Paint a couple of big red dots on the cheeks and a little black on the nose, a hat if we had one... More than once I was a product of last-minute planning and ended up in one of Mom's outfits. I was a pretty little thing, 'cept back then Mom didn't wear makeup which made for a homely looking girl. One year we stuffed a pillow under my "blouse" and I was a pro-life, pre-teen example of what you should do if you get knocked up unexpectedly.

One year me, my brothers and a friend or two decided we wanted to be Kiss. This despite the fact that the visiting preacher at church said they were devil worshippers. I insisted on being Gene Simmons. I thought he was the coolest of the singing satanists, and as much as I didn't want to go to Hell, I did want to be coolest. Somehow we got some white and black face paint, some glitter and made due with the hair we had - spiking it and teasing it and mussing it up as best we could with mousse and gel and hairspray. My brother, Loren, ended up cutting his own hair to better get into character. After Mom delivered her cow she administered his punishment - which couldn't have been much worse than the ribbing he got at school the next day.

Ever once in a while, come Halloween we'd splurge and buy a mask. My mamaw called them false-faces. She seemed sorta fascinated with the concept. The first time we'd see her after trick-or-treat, she'd always ask us what kind of false-face we wore. "Evil Knievel," I said once. As much as I liked being more like the richer kids who could always afford to buy masks and costumes, I liked better the time Mom and I spent together sorting through drawers and closets trying to put together a crazy outfit that I'd wear just that once. They were usually over-the-top fashion disasters, but clowns and drag queens are funner than nuns and teachers. Besides, after a while of walking the neighborhood with a rubber band cutting through my face, no peripheral vision and smelling my own Tootsie Roll breath, I learned it was a whole lot more fun and freeing skipping door to door in a sheet, er, toga and Flip Flops. Besides, false-faces are dishonest.



Gnats have been aplenty around central Kentucky this summer. At first I thought word was swarming around the bug world that my place was the hot new local gnat club, until I heard other folks talking about their own little problem guests. Evidently it's been a good year for gnats - if there is such a thing.

I've always been a generous rodent emancipator. When I was a kid my mom used to tell folks about me herding house-trapped flies and crickets to the door so they could live free in the wide open, instead of swatting or stomping 'em. I don't know what the purpose of such creatures is, but figuring there's probably not a bug heaven, (I don't know that for sure.) why not let them live as long as they can before ending their eternal existence?

When it comes to gnats though, I seem to not care so much. Gnats are annoying. They flit about almost like an apparition. Sometimes you're not even sure you see one, but you still swat at the air, 'cause they're annoying. For some reason I don't have a big heart for gnats. Actually, knowing that an adult gnat usually only lives for about a week anyway, I figure it was just days, maybe hours away from a natural death when it found the sticky paper in the kitchen. If all the other gnats care, they'll come to the paper to pay their last respects - and stick around.


god vs fred

I'm thinking that Fred Phelps and his hate-in-the-name-of-Jesus congregation have never felt the hurt in any of the broken hearts they protest. I'll bet they've never considered comforting a devastated parent or the spouse or child of a military soldier just tragically lost. Chances are they've not once followed the real Jesus example of compassion and weeping with the broken and sad. I'm sure that they never, ever looked into the eyes of Judy Shepard to express sorrow that her 21 year old son had been tortured and killed so violently and so senselessly.

If I give much thought to the wackos at Westboro I get angry. In the stupid/arrogant/psycho & disturbed hall of insanity, the Phelps plaque hangs just around the corner from the Hitler and the Hussein. I'd love to express more heartfelt disgust, but it's very judgmental of me and my language would certainly lean offensive. Too, I have no more appreciation for my own judgementalism than theirs or anyone else's, and I certainly don't wish to lower myself to the Phelps family way.

Matthew Shepard died eleven years ago. Eleven years and six days ago he was alive, but barely, having been beaten into a coma and left for dead in a remote Wyoming field. The two guys who were responsible for luring him into their car, robbing him, pistol-whipping him, torturing him, tying him to a fence and leaving him for dead are locked up now with two consecutive life sentences each. They admitted that they, like Fred Phelps' god, hate fags. So they killed him.

Matthew was gay. But had he been fat or black or Hispanic or female or poor or anything else that would distinguish him from his attackers, could there ever be justification for the savage, heartless brutality he endured? One of his killers said that as they bashed Matthew's head with the butt of their gun over and over again, he was screaming and begging them to stop, pleading for his life. They took his shoes, tied him painfully tight with a sharp, thin rope to a rough prairie fence post, then drove away into a chilly night leaving him in the cold to die. It was said that when he was found eighteen hours later Matthew's face was covered in blood, except for the tracks that were made by his tears.

A lot has been said since Matthew's murder about the need for extra punishment for those whose crime is motivated by their personal prejudices. I'm sorta mixed on the notion. But then again, I've not been a victim - not like Matthew. Although, the more I think about the fear that Matthew must've felt, his futile pleas for mercy, the hopelessness of being bound in the cold, in the wilderness, his terribly long and painful night of suffering and his last few agonizing days struggling to live - all because, only because he was gay - the more justified it seems.

Today, the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, would be a good day to consider the need for understanding and compassion among us. If you look at anyone and see less or more because of their skin or their stature or their gender or their ability or their affections or their position or their faith or their failures or their wardrobe or their politics or their car or their talents or their wealth or their success or their past or anything else, it might be good to ask God what He sees.

It's certainly tough to see and like people like Fred Phelps. I'm glad God can.


me and my spider man

I'm not always a patient driver. When I'm in a hurry, which is most of the time, I think everyone else should be too - or at least let me have the road. From time to time I'm not in a rush. Then I get all freaked out when somebody who is starts pushing me up the road. I'm a hypocrite that way. I get antsy at traffic lights. When I'm sitting still and others aren't I start coveting. Seriously, sometimes I wonder if I'm not right on the edge of sinning with it. I want that other guy's green light. Then the worst situation, when I'm the only car at the intersection and my light is perpetually red. Grrrr...

So, yesterday morning I'm sitting at the traffic light just kinda zoned out, kinda noticing the stuff around me, but not really. I look up to count down with the cross walk sign and notice a spider. It's itsy, tiny body is supported by very thin but long, long legs. It looks really weird, even for a spider. I'm figuring it ended up on my car from one of the trees or bushes where I parked. Regardless, unless it finds a safe place in a car cranny and soon, it's seen its last days at or near the Bishop house.

When my signal said go I wondered what the little guy would do. (Sorry so sexist.) Actually, I figured more than I wondered. I figured he'd blow away. He didn't. I don't know what he latched onto in that glass, but as soon as the wind hit that little arachnid he dug in and held on. His eight legs turned into one. I figured at some point, when the wind got too much he'd have to give up and join the breeze. Not so. Three, maybe four traffic lights later he was still there. I was starting to cheer him on. I wondered if there was a spider Olympics somewhere where I could sign him up. This little bug was good.

I had this whole thinking like a spider thing going on in my head. I don't know, but I might have even started voicing it out loud - putting words in his little mouth, thoughts in its little brain. "What the...!" "Where is this thing taking me?!" "Where is my tree?" "What have I done?!" "Dude! Slow down!" "We're stopping, thank God!" "Here we goooblblblblbl" Not knowing what language spiders usually speak, mine was talking good old American English, but with a slight exotic yet mid-western accent. Think Nebraskan moved to Puerto Rico and trying really hard to fit in. Besides, according to my religious upbringing, the whole world is western, Jesus was white, and the Middle Eastern ancients spoke like yet to be born 17th century English kings. (Another blog, maybe.) So I felt I could take a little licence.

Even though we'd just gotten acquainted, me and my spider started bonding. I couldn't control the signals (oh, but if I could...) and the horns, stares and fingers forced me to go with the flow of traffic. But I was becoming a fan. The little bugger needed a break from time to time, so I started hoping for red lights. Then it occurred to me about all of the other spiders on all of the other cars. I know how strong my spider is. He's proven that he can hang on at least up to 35 mph. I don't know about the other guy's spider.

It occurred to me that when my light is red and my spider is resting, the spiders on the cars with the green lights aren't. Just like my little guy, they're holding on with everything in them. Not every spider gets to relax, not all at once. Not all the cars are sitting still, and there's no relaxing when the car is moving.

How narrow and self-indulgent of me to think that my spider was the only spider. How arrogant to think that me and my spider deserved something that other people and their spiders didn't. How weird of me to talk like a spider.