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I decided this morning that I would look for the unique menagerie of urban wildlife. Afterall, I miss the great out-of-doors. But, I was certain that if I paid careful attention I could actually spot a variety of animals tucked between the mass surroundings of stucco, asphalt, concrete, plastic and steel.
After a few hundred yards into my journey, I was not surprised by a friendly companion. It was a common sparrow. No, it wasn’t walking. The old saying is that I will be blessed with good luck if a I see a sparrow walking. My only luck was appreciating life so small yet so amazingly precious.
God made this little critter by the hundreds of thousands. But, this morning one very cute little feathered creature was my walking buddy for several yards. Then, it took flight in search of the early morning worm.
Soon I was at the Golden Gate Park. I hiked through some woods and ended up at the edge of Spreckles Lake. There I greeted a spotted seagull. Did you ever realize what a big bird these gulls are? They are as big as a small chicken, just very sleek according to God’s design.
Then, it was back into the woods. Dense undergrowth surrounded the trees. Flowers of many varieties grew in the hidden areas of the park. But, the fragrance that filled my nostrils was not from wildflowers but from another form of mammalian wild life.
Most assuredly there was a skunk in the woods. Yes, I was wary and was looking for any hint of black fur highlighted with white stripes. Ooh, the odor was strong!
Finally, I made my turn to head back home right as I cornered the American Bison paddock. These mighty creatures were sunning themselves and gently grazing on the grass. Five of these female prairie beasts watched me walk by their protected corral.
It was worth a stop to stare back at them. Once roaming the middle American states in massive herds, they are now limited to specific protected areas. These majestic beasts remind of us the privilege of living in this great country.
Time was fleeting so I left my Bison buddies and headed toward home. As the gravel pathways evolved back into concrete I was to face just one more urban wildlife creature on my morning walk. They are the most feared, dreaded and dangerous of all. It is the California Roadhog. Honk! Honk!
photo credit: brucefong photography
It is a story of a single mom whose 9-year-old son is missing. The panic and desperate fear of a mother hurting for her child would capture most hearts. This did mine.
Five months after her son’s disappearance, the LAPD announced that they have found her son living in Illinois. He is transported home by train. With great fanfare the police reunite Christine Collins with her supposed son Walter. But, Christine does not recognize the boy.
Amazingly the police attempt to convince Christine that she is wrong, this is her son and she needs to accept the changes that have occurred over the past five months. Any mother will know who her child is. This struggle between a corrupt police Chief and his incorrigible Captain who is more interested in being authoritative than right is the heart of the story’s great tension.
Christine goes public with her complaint. To intimidate her the police Captain has her committed to the asylum. Her journey through false accusations, abusive treatment and intimidation is riveting.
During her struggle she wins the ally of Pastor Briegleb whose tenacious spirit and courageous initiative rescues Christine from the asylum. He also connects her with the attorney who wins her case against the city, leads her on a successful crusade to release other women who were falsely accused in the asylum and eventually brings about massive reform in the corrupt police department. The intensity of being falsely accused is enormous.
Alongside of this major story is the unique Detective Ybarra. He is on assignment to locate and deport a Canadian boy hiding at a remote ranch. This boy tells a horrid story of child abuse that shocks the nation.
No one likes to face the grim reality of the insidious actions by those who are warped and abusive especially when children are the victims. Yet, when those in power neglect decency, value image over truth and perpetuate ineptness to the detriment of the innocent, stories like the Changeling need to be told. It is a very uncomfortable telling but at the same time a cause all to champion on behalf of the innocent and the falsely accused. Watch the movie.
photo credit: ijango image
Venturing into the concrete jungle requires good planning, specific objectives and a game plan that makes sense. Getting lost in the forests of skyscrapers and throngs of pedestrians is a nightmare that no one wants. Multi-tasking and looking for too many landmarks at once could end up in an unfortunate collision. That would really ruin a good day.
With enough planning behind us we drove East. Mile after mile the pleasant easy-going residential Richmond faded behind and the even more densely populated downtown of San Francisco began to engulf us. Streets were beginning to fill with heavy traffic. Pedestrians were starting to make up their own rules. I was dodging the agile ones as best as I could.
Up ahead we saw the region of our final destination. It was Market Street. This was the golden strip of San Francisco shopping.
Like homing pigeons trying get our bearings, we drove in circles looking for a special sign. We saw it on a post. It has a large P and invites drivers to congregate and park their vehicles.
Once our transportation was safely tucked away, we made our way to the city streets seven stories below. Again we scanned our surroundings and got our bearings. After a review of our map and a check of the street signs we turned to our left, walked three blocks and found the entrance to our destination. It was the downtown Mall.
I warn all males to be very careful when you approach this point of interest. It holds dangerous rays that shower super heroes and draining their powers. It is known as kryptonite. Superman exposed the dangers of this poisonous ore. It has high concentrations at all shopping malls.
As soon as I stepped into the front entrance, the weakness came over me like ocean waves. We looked over the directory and I could sense my mind losing its orientation. Then, we walked into a store called Vera Bradley.
It is a bag shop. Uniquely, the bags are made with complicated prints known by as “busy”. Then again others describe them as sensational. I couldn’t adjust my eyes. All of the colors and prints made me feel like the specialty shop was spinning. I sat down and grabbed the sofa arms for dear life. The Kryptonite is strong in that store. Concentrate, men, and don’t give up. I made it out and so can you.
photo credit: ijango image
Sundays are busy days. It is the climax of an intense week. After studying hard, delivering two messages with gusto, listening to everyone who needed an ear and jumping in on an essential meeting it was time to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Yvonne and I climbed into our car. We set the GPS for a destination south. Then, we started driving.
It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. Blue skies served as a canopy for the day. It was too nice to stay indoors. Our destination was vague. A flexible schedule for our adventure meant that stress could not interfere. This was my kind of relaxation.
The route through Golden Gate Park on Highway 1 was a mistake. Traffic was heavy. Cars moved along slowly, crawling from one signal light to the next. Still we were stress-free. The day was well spent. Now, it was time to just enjoy life.
Finally, the traffic broke free. I-280 moved us along at posted speeds. The sounds of the city were beginning to fade behind us. Something refreshing was urging us on.
We took the turn off to Pacifica. The wind was blowing stiffly. Trees along the road were waving us on like flags celebrating a freedom that was being discovered.
Just over the rise even at 55 mph the Pacific Ocean explodes on the horizon. It engulfs then entire windshield. The new horizon is the straight line which is th edge of the world.
I smile. The salt air has a wonderful aroma. Kites flown by the hands of men dot the sky. Beach lovers are filing by on their way to bask in the sun. Towels, sunglasses, surfboards and sand chairs fill up the arms of pedestrians on both sides of the highway.
A gentle turn to the south leads us through Eucalyptus forests, past rolling hills fill with green grass, and farm fields lined with new growth crops. But, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the ocean. The coastal beaches were filled with thousands of people. Surfers grabbed inbound waves. Hang Gliders floated on updrafts near rocky cliffs.
My favorite part was a stop at Princeton Restaurant. Award winning clam chowder made both of us smile. Then, the waitress served up a plate of BBQ oysters, grilled to a savory perfection. God knew what it a treat this would be: delicious and relaxing all at the same time.
photo credit: ijango image
Yvonne and I have been debating over replacing our kitchen faucet. Right at the juncture where it pivots on the sink, the gasket has been corrupted. Every movement causes the gasket to kink, protrude and defy replacement.
It is a vintage fixture. I know that even if I found the replacement gasket, the effort to remove the faucet and replace the $.75 part would take as much work as installing a new and modern unit. Once in a rare moment of personal pride I had finished a plumbing job and declared myself, Bruce the Plummer. It was a mistake. You have heard of the old adage that pride goes before a fall? My pride is still smarting after that episode in my past.
mechanically, replacing this piece of hardware is not complicated. First, I remove a few nuts, take out a screw or two and then discard a washer. It is not challenging from a procedural perspective.
What is very difficult are the contortions necessary to get the job done. The human body was never intended to have that many twists and turns in it while maneuvering around water pipes, drain pipes and electrical cords. But, some brave gumby-like nimble body has to do it.
So I grabbed my tool bucket, unpacked our new purchase and began to remove the old stuff. Excess water poured on my head. It was so cold and shocked me that I jerked a little too fast and hit my head on the drain pipe. It was my first experience at seeing stars under the sink.
The release nuts are high up at the sink top. In order to reach them I lie on my back. But, the pain from resting on the cabinet edge is a losing proposition of great pain so I use my legs to lift my core into the air while grabbing wrenches and humming praise songs through the pain and aching muscles.
Once I removed the old stuff and cleaned up the sink, I read the instructions for the new installation. There is something deeply gratifying from installing something new. The new faucet was mounted and now attached to the water supply. I turned on the water source and there were no leaks. Then, the moment of truth.
I climbed out from underneath the sink. With a smile and a prayer I turned on the faucet. Shazaam! It worked. Just call me, Bruce the Plumber!
photo credit: ijango image
Dre moved from Detroit with his single mom to Beijing. The contrast of locations is enormous but the dynamics of a young boy of 12 trying to find his identity is the same in any culture. Dre develops an enormous crush on Mei Ying, a budding violinist. That fascination also stirs up ill feelings with the neighborhood bully, Chung.
Chung is a Kung Fu student but uses is martial arts to hurt rather than help. He and his fellow ruffians brutally attack Dre. Mr. Han intervenes and this down and out maintenance man, unleashes his Kung Fu as it should in self-defense. An inevitable fight is brewing.
Han teaches Dre Kung Fu. The training sequences are wonderful. Seemingly mundane chores turn out to be muscle memory exercises for fundamental Kung Fu strikes and blocks. A journey to Wudang Mountain highlights the scene where a Kung Master facing a dancing cobra fascinates Dre.
Han corrects Dre’s misunderstanding that the Kung Fu artisan was not following the snake but the snake was following the Kung Fu Master. Michelle Yeoh, a favorite of all martial artists, performed her cameo appearance as the cobra silhouette. This training technique of shadowing the teacher was one of the stunning features of Dre’s training.
During an emotionally low moment in Han’s life, he was reliving the horrible accident a year earlier that took the life of his wife and son. While arguing in the car Han ran off the road. The accident took the lives of his family.
Dre drew Han out of his grief and the two practiced the art of shadow training. This poignant moment where Master taught the student and the student taught the Master climaxed the training.
Jackie Chan performed well as did Jaden Smith. The character development was very good. Dre’s mom was a disappointment. The villains were well conceived and cast well. In the end balance was as the shadow training suggests that it should be.
photo credit: ijango image
Coming back home requires some major changes. One of the most difficult is finding a new doctor. It’s hard enough to go to the doctor for annual check-ups. But, it is even harder to establish a new relationship with a total stranger.
I put off the encounter for as long as I could. But, for longevity sake, stewardship of life and of course faithfulness to ministry I finally called for an appointment. It took some time to rearrange insurance, patiently wait for the trial period and find an open date for my physical but the eventual day finally came.
My appointment was right after lunch. No one was in the waiting room except me. I filled out all of the obligatory forms, showed my current ID and signed what I was supposed to sign.
Have you ever noticed how calm everything is in the doctor’s waiting room? Under serene faces is the screaming wild man in every guy who wants to be any where but here. Groan.
All of us guys hear the sound of a pair of rubber gloves snapping on the doctor’s wrists. He inevitably tells you, “Assume the position.” Willingly on the outside but totally rebellious on the inside, we comply. Moan.
There are no words to express this part of the examine. In real-time it is brief. But, in REAL life we never forget. That part lasts a lifetime.
I relax when it is over. It’s like escaping a charging rhino. There’s no escape but we wish we could not only disappear but never come back.
Just when I pick myself up from the friendly violation, my breathing returns to normal. I sigh in relief that I have a whole year before this has to be done again. But, the doctor asks with surprise, “What’s this?”
We chat a bit. He asks some questions. That is followed by more examination. Then, he concludes, “You have Shingles.”
Innocently but truthfully I respond, “I do?” “It doesn’t bother you?” he inquires. We chat some more. Then, he declares, “Wow, you must have a very high tolerance for pain.”
Oh, snap. He’s got that right! When God created me He formed one tough hombre!
photo credit: ijango image
There’s not a mean bone in that over-grown over-energized completely fun-loving puppy. But, his energy alone can intimidate full grown adults. When he plays he doesn’t know how big and strong he is.
He is full of mischievousness. Play has to be his favorite word. Most of us have lost our patience with him stealing this, jumping on that or licking us at the wrong time with slobbery results. But, it’s hard to stay angry at this lovable bundle of fur and boundless-energy.
Bo matches his enthusiasm with stealth. He grabbed my novel when I wasn’t looking. Within seconds he shredded the last chapter.
My sister-in-law and Yvonne pieced as much of my book back together as they could. A few holes remained. I’ll never know how this story ends. I guess I’ll have to make up an ending myself.
Bo looked up at me with his happy eyes. His tongue was hanging and his tail was wagging. All I could do was smile and shake my head.
That’s when our furry tornado launched into action again. Someone was at the door. Bo howled and scampered to the door. Anyone who is afraid of dogs would naturally have balked.
It was my daughter and son-in-law. They were not alone. In their arms they carried their two Lhasa Apsos, Nemo and Oscar. Their intent was to introduce their dogs to Bo. Afterall, they are all family.
I had to see this! The noise of Bo’s barking was loud. It frightened the two diminutive dust mop looking pups.
When the moment of truth came and the two Lhasas were put on the floor, Bo came up and did what all dogs do. He sniffed and smelled and took in the odors of these new play pals.
We all chuckled and wondered if Bo would think that they were an appetizer for dinner. But, our big fur ball only wanted to PLAY. He shared a ball, a squeeze toy and a tug rope.
He crouched with his tail wagging and barking encouragement to his two new buddies. They would have nothing to do with Godzilla. Oh, well, what Oscar and Nemo lack in raw courage they make up raw cuteness.
photo credit: google image
Finally, Yvonne asked if we had heard any news for our family dinner rendezvous. I assured her that my brother would call us. Even as I spoke those words doubt crept into my mind. That doubt was predominantly a product of my hunger.
It was nearly 7PM and way past my normal dinner schedule. On the one hand my brother had assured me that he would call. On the other hand, that urge to find out the latest was inescapable.
I asked Kristin to send her cousin a text message. We would find out when and what was going on. Impatience is a by-product of our lives when we are looking forward to our continuing quest for BBQ beef ribs in the greater San Francisco eateries.
In a matter of seconds the response came back. They would be at the restaurant in 5 minutes. No one in our home needed any more prompting.
All of us jumped to our feet, put on our shoes, grabbed a coat and together we bolted for the door. In 5 minutes we were on the corner of Geary and 2nd to test the BBQ fare of another restaurant. It’s in the Fong DNA to gnaw on bones.
Fourteen of us gathered enough chairs and pushed tiny tables together. In the end a sizable banquet table entertained our clan of Fongs. We filled the table with BBQ and all of the fixin’s.
First, the center piece was placed on the table. It was a platter of beef ribs. I was the privileged one to set that plate on our family target.
Next, a plate of pork ribs still sizzling from the grill followed the beef. The blend of seasonings and smoked meat made for a succulent aroma. BBQ has to be one of the world’s greatest olfactory stimulants!
Thinly sliced beef brisket came on a platter. Pulled portk was piled high on another plate. Chicken pieces finished up the parade of meats.
Add to this potatoe salad, cole slaw, baked beans, sweat potatoe fries, traditional fries and corn bread and we were ready to feast. After grace we dug in and the convesation stopped. All that could be heard was the sound of lips smacking and wet knapkins wiping. Family is finger-licking good!
photo credit: ijango image
One of our movie channels was showing Vantage Point. It began with a television news unit that was in a broadcast trailer. They were televising a gathering of the heads of state in Spain.
The first characters on the screen were going through a familiar routine. Cameras and reporters had their assignments. The producer was giving out orders and aligning everyone so that they would match the program in her mind.
Suddenly, with the President of the USA at the podium, two rifle shots rang out and the President fell. The crowd turned chaotic. Inside the trailer the news personnel shook off their shock.
Quickly they composed themselves and tried desperately to cover the assassination. Suddenly there was a large explosion. When the dust settled their lead reporter lay on the ground. She was not moving, a casualty of the bomb.
Now, the movie changes. Like a massive tape being rewound, the movie goes back to the beginning. This time the same story is told from the vantage point of the President’s entourage.
In a stretch limo the President of the United States was diverted by the NSA. The flags of the president’s car were removed and placed on a following limo. We didn’t see this in the first story.
Due to a real threat a double was sent in the President’s place. The public appearance would be over in a few moments. Intelligence proved to be accurate.
How can the real president take charge? As far as the world is concerned, he had been shot. He and his advisors are scrambling to lead from behind the scenes.
The movie rewinds again. This time an American tourist gets the story told from his vantage point. He is in the crowd videotaping the entire moment. Even the Secret Service seeks him out to view what was recorded.
Again the movie quickly rewinds. The Secret Service tells the story from their vantage point. Their attention to detail is at the heart of their story.
It is an action packed movie. The intrigue is remarkable. The message of the movie is clear: make sure that your car insurance is current just in case a Secret Service agent borrows it for a high-speed chase after international assassins.
photo credit: ijango image