Our book is done, so Ace and I — Lord willing and the creek don’t rise — are starting a new chapter.
For two years — yes, two — I’ve been assembling the book version of “Travels with Ace,” which documents the year my dog and I wandered the country, tracing the path John Steinbeck took with his poodle Charley and venturing down some of our own.
Unlike “Travels with Charley” (the literary classic), ”Travels with Ace” (the book in search of a publisher) is a more lighthearted account of road tripping with a dog across America. It’s more laden with dogs, dog lore and dog facts, and delves more deeply into just what it is that makes you, me and America so bonkers over dogs.
Written by a former newspaper journalist (that would be me) whose massive mystery mutt altered the course of his life, the book looks at how we and our country have changed in the 50 years since Steinbeck and Charley circumnavigated America in a camper named Rocinante.
One recurring theme — as you might expect from a newspaper guy who watched his industry shrink and crumble, and who’s approaching old manhood — is my grumbling and anxiety over technology, and where, besides unemployment, it might take us.
That theme showed up in my first book, too – about cloning dogs, a technology that, at least when it comes to pet owners, would be better off never having been invented, in my opinion.
It was, in large part, that first book that led to the second one. Seeing the lengths to which dog owners go upon losing, or learning they’re about to lose, their dog — cloning being probably the most extreme of them — I decided that the best time to celebrate one’s dog (and one’s people) is while they’re still alive.
So I showed my dog America, and came to the conclusion, among others, that while full speed ahead is sometimes fine, slowing down (which dogs can help with) and stepping backwards can be good, too.
Ace and I ended up in North Carolina — moving, backwards, into the same apartment unit my parents lived in when I was born. We stayed there until last week when — because the landlord sold it to a new owner — we were required to vacate the premises.
It was by accident, or maybe fate, that we ended up in Bethania, the oldest planned Moravian settlement in North Carolina, established in 1759.
Looking at boring apartment developments, Ace and I made a wrong turn, or two, or three, and found ourselves going down its bucolic Main Street, which is lined with historic homes. Bethania, while surrounded by Winston-Salem, is an independent jurisdiction, with a population of about 350. It feels like another world, and a very peaceful one at that.
Bethania is not to be confused – but often is — with Bethabara, which was the first Moravian settlement in North Carolina, established by 15 church members who walked here from Pennsylvania. Fleeing religious persecution, the German-speaking Protestants first came to the U.S. when it was still a group of British colonies. Once Bethabara became a thriving village, and became overcrowded with refugees, a second Moravian settlement was laid out — Bethania
After that, a third settlement was founded – Salem, which would become the congregation’s headquarters and the biggest and best known of the villages of what was called Wachovia. Today, Bethabara is an historic park, Bethania is a little town, and Old Salem is a tourist attraction, where one can learn about the old ways
The Moravians were known for doing missionary work with local Indian tribes, and avoiding, on principal, violent conflict. Their cemeteries, such as God’s Acre in Old Salem, are highly regimented affairs where the grave markers, in addition to being in neat rows and grouped according to the Moravian choir system, are all of the same size — a reminder that, as much as we might like or think we deserve a big ostentatious tombstone, we’re all equal. I like that.
Bethania seems to reflect an attention to detail as well. Church members built their houses in the middle of town, and the orchards and farms they worked were on its periphery. I’m pretty sure my house was once orchard area.
It’s quiet, and it feels like I’m out in the country, even though it’s only 7 miles from downtown.
I knew I made the right decision on our new location when, at the town’s visitor center, I inquired whether it would be okay to take my dog, on a leash, down the hiking trails behind it.
“You don’t need a leash,” came the reply.
Almost every home in Bethania has a front porch with two rocking chairs — and, while I’m pretty sure it’s not required by local ordinance, I plan to follow suit
My little white house with a green tin roof has a fireplace in the living room, a grapevine in the backyard, room to plant lots of vegetables and a shed in which I plan to tinker with things. I’m not sure what things, but I definitely want to tinker.
I have a neighbor to one side, an empty lot on the other, and judging from the vines in the trees, I think I’ll have some kudzu to look at, which some of you might remember I have a thing for.
In addition to the visitor center, and the trails, there’s a public golf course, Long Creek Club, just down the road (owned by my landlord); and the old mill in the center of town has been refurbished and sports several shops, studios, and the Muddy Creek Café, a dog friendly spot with live music on weekends.
I’m just a newcomer, but I suspect the biggest social hub is the Moravian Church, just a few hundred yards from my home. (In a bit of a coincidence, it’s interim minister once graced the pages of ohmidog!)
I am not now a Moravian and have never been one, but I do have a family connection. She was considered my great aunt, though she wasn’t a blood relative.
Kathleen Hall was born to another family, but grew up as a sister to my grandmother. We called her “Tan,” believed to be derived from a mispronunciation of “aunt.”
Every Easter, my mother instructs me to put a flower on Tan’s grave at God’s Acre in Old Salem — preferably purple, Tan’s favorite color. I did that on Easter, and noticed, as in previous years, another flower, a white lily, was already there. Who leaves it every year is a mystery to us.
There’s also a memory of her in my living room — her stitchwork covers a footstool my mother passed along to me years ago.
Given that connection, and the fact that the Moravian church is just a few hundred yards away from my new home, I may check it out — at least once I get my boxes unpacked and my Internet set up.
They do have that here — even though several internet/cable companies told me my address in Bethania doesn’t exist.
One who uses Bethania as their mailing address can’t get mail delivered. I could use Winston-Salem or Pfafftown as my mailing address, but I’ve opted to go with Bethania and avoid getting a mailbox. Instead, I’ll walk three houses down to the little post office when I want my mail, which, given it’s mostly bills, I usually don’t.
Other than that, Bethania isn’t one of those places stuck in the past, just a place that honors it. It’s not like an Amish community. I’m pretty sure people aren’t churning butter and blacksmithing. But there does seem to be a respect for times gone by, and the older I get, the more frustrated I get with my computer, and apps, and talking to robots on the phone, the more important that has become to me.
Despite my growing techno-anxiety, I will admit — after moving 20 or so boxes of books — that the Kindle might not be an entirely bad idea.
After the Saturday move, I woke up pretty sore on Easter Sunday.
I’d fully intended to take Ace to the Moravian sunrise service here in Bethania.
But the sound of rain on my new tin roof lulled me back to sleep.
Once I did wake up, Ace and I had Easter lunch with my mother, then dropped by God’s Acre in Old Salem to pay respects to Tan and drop off a purple hyacinth. Then we headed back home.
So that’s the tale of our new place, and a long way of saying our new address is:
PO Box 169
Bethania, NC, 27010
Posted by jwoestendiek April 5th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, bethabara, bethania, church, dog inc., dogs, hiking, history, home, house, john steinbeck, mill, moravians, move, moving, muddy creek cafe, north carolina, ohmidog!, old salem, pets, religion, salem, settlement, simpler, technology, trails, travels with ace, travels with charley, walking, way of life, winston-salem
Alessandro Forlani’s guide dog, Asia, helps him see. But when Forlani got an unexpected chance to meet the new pope Monday — and found himself temporarily speechless – Asia helped out with that, too.
Forlani, a visually impaired radio reporter, wasn’t sure he would be allowed into the pontiff’s first meeting with the press because dogs are prohibited from the auditorium in which it was held.
“As I waited in line to enter the hall, the security guards told me that most likely I wouldn’t be allowed to get in with the dog,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “But after a few minutes, Vatican officials gave me the green light and I was accompanied by a Swiss guard to the audience hall.”
To Forlani’s surprise, he and Asia, a yellow Labrador, were shown to seats in one of the front rows.
He listened to Pope Francis talk, and then stood in the background as reporters who had been approved to meet the pope lined up to greet him.
Although Forlani was not on the approved list to meet the pope, he was approached by Vatican officials. “They said that Pope Francis had asked to meet me,” the reporter wrote. “He had seen Asia and wanted to see both (of) us.”
Once standing with the pope, Forlani — despite being a host for Italian public radio — was at a loss for words.
But Asia helped out again, serving as a conversation starter, according to Rome Reports.
Forlani, once the words came, asked for a blessing for his daughter and wife, which Pope Francis provided.
“And then he thought about my dog saying, ‘and one for the dog.’ He reached down and patted my dog,” Forlani said.
Pope Francis’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was the patron saint of animals.
(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 21st, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alessandro forlani, animals, asia, blessed, catholic, dogs, guide dog, host, italy, meets, pets, pontiff, pope, pope francis, public radio, radio, religion, reporter, rome, visually impaired
Whether you’re Catholic, Presbyterian or just plain gullible, you might have seen and fallen for this series of photos that seems to capture two neighboring churches having a theological debate, via their church signs, on whether dogs go to heaven.
But nay, my friend. Do not be decieved. See the light, which, you might notice, is exactly the same in each shot, as is the cropping, as is the background — including one car that is parked in the same place the whole time the alleged sign debate is going on.
Yea, verily, the devil’s workshop (now available online).
This particular one — the place where these false images are fashioned — is called Church Sign Generator. You can find it on the Internet, should you care to venture into that sinful rat’s nest of temptation, deception and pop-up ads. (May God strike me down if I ever resort to them.)
We (by which I mean me) are not truly bothered by Internet-generated church signs, though we’d argue that being able to put any words you want on one takes away some of the thrill of spotting real church signs that contain humor, wisdom or interesting typos. (Like seeking kudzu dogs, that’s one of my hobbies.)
Some of the Cumberland Presbyterians — especially since they seem to come out on the losing end of the debate — are less than thrilled with it though, calling the text that appears on the signs “inappropriate.”
The misleading series of photos is most often passed along via the forwarded email — forwarded emails being the Internet equivalent of swarming locusts.
“This forwarded e-mail continues to rear its ugly head time after time,” writes editor Pat White in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church newsletter, “so I am resurrecting this message that explains that this is not a theological issue for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.”
“These signs are a prank,” he adds. “If you receive one of these forwarded e-mails, please respond to the sender to be sure they understand that this is not a true Cumberland Presbyterian church sign.”
Alas, his remarks are too little, too late.
As with with locusts, once forwarded emails go viral, the damage is done, and the Presbyterian Church, or at least the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, or at least the Beulah Cumberland Presbyterian Church – if there really is one — is left looking God-fearing but dog-hating.
White does not address whether all dogs go to heaven, but we are quite certain they do.
We read it on a church sign once.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: all dogs go to heaven, beulah, catholic, church, church sign generator, church signs, cumberland presbyterian, debate, deception, devils workshop, dishonest, doctored, dogs, email, engineered, forwarded, hands, heaven, idle, internet, misleading, our lady of martyrs, photos, photoshop, presbyterian, religion, sign, signage, signs, viral, website
This utility pole — in Kinston, North Carolina, about 90 minutes east of Raleigh — has been attracting attention in the last week from people who see in it a strong resemblance to Jesus on the cross.
And who are we to argue — especially with our addiction to kudzu dogs?
Kent Hardison, who goes by the pole every day on his way to work at Ma’s Hotdog House, told the Free Press of Kinston that he considered spraying weed killer on it when he first saw it, but then thought better of it.
“I glanced at it, and it looks like Jesus,” Hardison said. “I thought, ‘You can’t spray Jesus with Roundup.’”
Hardison said some of his customers think the vine might be an indication that God is watching over the region — and he thinks that’s possible. As he noted, there are some similarities between kudzu and Jesus.
“It doesn’t matter what you do, it is going to be around,” he said. “Ain’t that a lot like Jesus?”
And, as one news report pointed out, The Gospel of John quotes Jesus as saying “I am the true vine.”
Based on our vast experience, and being — while a disciple of dog — an afficianado of kudzu, I can tell you that Kudzu Jesus isn’t kudzu, despite what’s being reported by news media around the world.
At the time, spending hours seeking out and photographing kudzu growing in the shape of dogs, I questioned what had become of my life — how a prize-winning journalist had been reduced to pursuing such a trivial diversion. But now it all pays off, as I can warn the world of a false prophet.
Kudzu Jesus is actually Trumpet Vine Jesus.
To its credit, The Free Press, which broke the story of Kudzu Jesus, corrected itself today, reporting that “multiple sources” have confirmed “that the Christ-like vine on a pole about one mile south of Kinston on U.S. 258 South, is actually Trumpet Vine — a wild vine native to Southeastern U.S.”
Both a local historian and an agriculture extension agent told the newspaper that trumpet vine — named for its trumpet-shaped flowers — is what’s growing up the pole.
Don’t be fooled by Trumpet Vine Jesus; wait until the real kudzu saviour comes along — and I’m sure, in time, he will.
(Top photo: Charles Buchanan / Daily Free Press)
(Bottom photo: John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: christ, cross, crucifixion, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, growing, image, imagination, jesus, jesus christ, kinston, kudzu, kudzu dogs, kudzu jesus, mistake, news media, north carolina, religion, saviour, shape, south, travels with ace, trumpet vine, utility pole, vine, vines, weed, weeds
It’s still two days from Judgment Day — by one evangelist’s count, anyway — prompting a question to arise, and with it some solutions.
The question: Assuming only humans – only believing humans — get swept up to heaven when the Rapture occurs, who’s going to feed their dogs?
The solutions: An insurance policy of sorts being offered by — among others, and with various degrees of seriousness — a New Hampshire man who says he has lined up non-Christian caretakers to feed and house the pets of Rapturees.
“I’m not looking to make a statement here,” Bart Centre, a retired retail executive, atheist author and founder of Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, told the Philadelphia Daily News. “I’m looking to make money.”
(We don’t believe that, and think he’s making a statement, too.)
The company, he says, hopes to profit from the May 21 Judgment Day hysteria, by selling 10-year contracts to protect pets from “a slow death by starvation in the event that you get raptured.” It costs $135.
Far cheaper alternatives are available, including one that only costs $10 and is offered by After the Rapture Pet Care, whose video is shown above.
Co-founder Sharon Moss says on the website that — though they got the idea from a joke — it’s totally serious.
After a woman in England, also an athiest, started a post-Rapture pet care website as a joke, Moss, a Christian, saw it as something that could be a legitimate and much-needed business. The company began recruiting non-Christian pet lovers nationwide to serve as post-Rapture pet caretakers.
Eternal Earthbound Pets, its owner insists, is also a legitimate business venture. Centre, who is the author of ”The Atheist Camel Chronicles,” says his rescuers – confirmed to have committed sins that will keep them from being caught up in the Rapture — will retrieve pets within 24 hours of the Rapture and “keep them as their own family members,” for up to 10 years.
The company was launched two years ago in response to the belief that, under the Mayan calendar, Judgment Day would occur Dec. 21, 2012. But it has gotten a boost from the prediction by Christian radio evangelist Harold Camping that — ready or not –the end will most assuredly come this weekend.
Centre says he has 258 clients in 26 states so far.
My question, though, is whether the Rapture is going to be dog-friendly — whether God, though The Bible doesn’t show dogs much respect, has come around in his view of them. Will all dogs go to heaven? Dogs being the least sinful among us, I would think that would be the case, in which case the post-Rapture pet care companies would have no dogs to feed.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: after the rapture pet care, animals, atheists, bart centre, care, caretakers, dog, dogs, eternal earthbound pets, eternity, god, harold camping, heaven, judgment day, pet care, pets, post rapture, predictions, rapture, religion, sharon moss, sin
It’s dark down here. Even with every light on, even when the sun’s up, the temporary home Ace and I have landed in — a cellar apartment in an old southern mansion — is, given its subterranean location, something less than bright and cheery.
I have window wells, but little light shines through. I look out and assume it’s a rainy day — only to step outside and see that it’s as sunshiny as it can be. Down here, it’s as if it’s always 3 a.m. Ace wakes up, looks around, and — like me — assumes it’s not morning yet.
I haven’t been cursing the darkness. That’s best reserved for internet connections. But I think it has been keeping me from being awake as I might be, and I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done. Instead I’ve mostly been oversleeping, setting up housekeeping and visiting my mother. She lives about a mile down the road, so Ace and I have visited almost nightly — conveniently around dinner time. I mentioned to her how dim things were in my apartment, and she, being a former newswoman, felt the need to share that — at least with my sister.
I’ve introduced you to my sister before, when Ace and I passed through Madison, Wisconsin. She’s prone to random outbursts of karaoke singing, sermonizing, deep thoughts and good deeds, and I was about to be a recipient of one of them — luckily the latter.
She called to tell me she had found four lamps on Craigslist, and that she was giving them to me as a Christmas present. All I had to do was drive to some town called Midway, and find the home of a man named Ken. She sent me an email with the directions. Like all her emails, it ended with the same quote from Edith Wharton: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” (Buying lamps via Craigslist wasn’t an option in Edith’s day.)
I popped open the back window of the jeep. He greeted Ace, noticed there was no air in the tires of my bicycle, still attached to the rack, and offered to pump some in. He helped me load the four lamps into the car, and told me to help myself to the kitchen items packed in boxes in his barn. They, like the lamps, had belonged to his mother, who died last fall at age of 98.
I tried to pay Ken $60 — $48 for the lamps, the rest for everything else I grabbed – but he insisted on giving me change. I stuffed as much as I could into the car — or at least as much as Ace would permit. Ace doesn’t like things rattling around back there, or any of the contents to shift while we’re driving, and given the back seat has been his home for most of the past nine months, I try to oblige.
After loading up, we stopped for lunch in Midway, which is next to a town called Welcome, at a place called The Dawg House, then headed down the road to the Midway General Store, where it was hard to find things because it was dark inside. But I got three copies made of the key to my new place, bought two plug adaptors, three packages of cuphooks and a big greasy hambone for Ace — all for a mere $11.
Ace nibbled his bone as I took the back roads home, passing church after church — all with marquee signs out front:
‘Hands joined in prayer are never empty,” one said.
“The church is a pit stop in the race of life,” read another.
“God’s plans for us are better than our own,” another advised.
Space being limited on church signs, attribution for the words of wisdom on them is seldom provided — so you never really know whether they come from God, the local preacher, Edith Wharton or some book, like “1001 Catchphrases for Your Church Marquee.”
Whether they are original words, or a reflection of somebody else’s, doesn’t really matter — as long as they are getting shared, because church marquees, even those that don’t light up, are all about spreading the light, giving life some meaning, tossing a little hope, inspiration and joy our way.
On top of that, never having lived in darkness before, I’ve learned that, much like a chili cheese dog, light – the non-symbolic, simple wattage kind — makes me happy.
For Ace, a hambone works just fine.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 5th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, basement, cellar, church, darkness, dawg house, dog's country, dogscountry, god, hambone, hardware, inspiration, light, mansion, marquees, midway, north carolina, phrases, religion, road trip, signs, spread, sunshine, travels with ace, welcome, wisdom
With God on my side and Jesus in my cupholder, Ace and I passed through the Texas panhandle Wednesday, revisiting the site where, 18 years ago, almost to the day, I nearly got myself killed.
This time around, the roads weren’t icy, there was no snow; only vicious winds that tried to blow me off the road.
Just to be extra safe — well before my dreaded approach to the tiny town of Groom — I stopped to fill my thermos with coffee at the Jesus Christ is Lord Travel Center, on the east side of Amarillo.
It was opened less than two years ago by Sam Kohli, who also runs a Jesus Christ is Lord trucking line, whose 100-plus trucks are all emblazoned with that phrase.
“He just felt there were a lot of people who didn’t know Jesus Christ is Lord,” the woman at the cash register explained to me, charging me a mere $1.18 to fill my thermos and wishing me safe travels.
In 1993, returning to Philadelphia after a three-year assignment in California, my Isuzu Trooper slid off icy I-40, turning over twice before coming to rest, right side up, at the bottom of an embankment.
Anyway, back 18 years ago, I managed to restart the crumpled vehicle and drive half a mile to the nearest motel, where I checked in, along with my dog at the time, a mutt named Hobo.
As I stood in the lobby, trying to contact my insurance company on the pay phone, the desk clerk kept pointing me out to new arrivals, and each time he told the story he added one more roll: “That’s him over there, rolled over four times, he’s lucky to be alive.”
For the next three days, the dog and I licked our wounds and waited for the motel owners to come through with a ride they promised to the Amarillo airport, where I could rent a car for the rest of the trip. The Isuzu was totaled, and I’d been ticketed for reckless driving, though I was driving slower than anyone else on the road.
I kept waiting for our ride to the airport, and I started fearing there was a conspiracy to make me a permanent resident of the town of 500. Groom, coincidentally, is where much of the filming was done for the 1992 movie “Leap of Faith,” about a faith healer who bilks believers out of their money.
Finally, on day four — my room bill rising, my faith waning – I left the dog in the room, walked to a truck stop (it’s gone now, burned down, they say) and hitched a ride on a chicken truck to the Amarillo airport to get a rental car. Then I went back to the motel, picked Hobo up and drove on.
Back to the present: My original plan was to avoid Groom, on this trip and for eternity, but Wednesday, on a route that was sending me right past it, I decided to confront my fears.
The first Groom exit is the site of what bills itself as the largest cross in America.
It’s made of steel, 19 stories tall, with a cross arm that spans 110 feet. It took 250 welders eight months to complete, and weighs 1,250 tons. The man behind it is Steve Thomas, who was disgusted with billboards advertising “pornographic” services and decided to send travelers a different message.
It wasn’t there on my earlier trip — not being finished until two years later — so it took me by surprise. At first I thought that America’s largest cross (Effingham, Illinois, claims it has one eight feet taller) had been built at the precise spot of my accident.
I realized later, though, that the spot where I almost met my maker was a mile ahead, at the next exit.
Rather than get back on I-40, I took the back route, turning left on Route 66, driving through town, and approaching the scene of the accident from a side road.
I parked on the side of the road and left Ace in the car — not wanting him anywhere near the Interstate, or the accursed spot. I did grab my camera and pulled Bobblehead Jesus (B. Jesus, for short) from the cupholder so that he could accompany me.
I felt chills as I gazed at the spot, though maybe that was from the 60 mile per hour winds.
Feeling I had successfully confronted my fears — that I had found closure (not that I’m a big fan of closure; it’s so … final) — I went off in search of the motel that held me hostage.
Next door, I stopped in at a restaurant called The Grill, asking what happened to the motel. The owner told me that what used to be called the Golden Spread Motel stopped being a motel about 15 years ago, changed hands a few times and ended up as a storage facility.
I told her Golden Spread sounded like something you’d put on a sandwich — or maybe a pornographic term describing some act with which I’m not familiar.
I stepped back outside, into the wind, and thought about the gigantic, non-pornographic cross, which, without any guy wires, can withstand gusts of up to 140 miles per hour. In the car, I gave B. Jesus a pat, sending his head to bobbing. Then I gave Ace one.
I was still a little sour on Groom, but I felt a vague sense of gratitude, and gave God that conditional nod I’m prone to giving him or her: I’m not sure I believe in you, but if you’re the reason Hobo and I survived that accident, thanks so much for the ensuing 18 years (in Hobo’s case, about four).
By then I was back on I-40, traveling eastbound, buffeted by winds, bolstered by Jesus Christ is Lord coffee, strengthened by having confronted my demons, and inspired by a giant cross.
Ace looked around, as if confused: What were all those stops about? I’m not sure I know. I get overwhelmed when I start thinking about God and the hereafter. I have enough trouble handling the here and now.
But this much I know I do have: A deep and abiding faith in dog.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 31st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, amarillo, america, animals, bobblehead jesus, car, church, crash, cross, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, faith, god, god's country, golden spread, groom, hobo, ice, jesus, jesus christ, jesus christ is lord, largest, leap of faith, lord, pets, religion, road trip, route 66, texas, texasm panhandle, travel center, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, truck stop, trucks
Are Baptist pumpkins preachier? Do they go all fire and brimstone? Do they achieve life everlasting, or is that dream just pie in the sky?
I pictured a chapel filled with orange orbs, sharing fellowship, singing hymns. I wondered if other denominations of gourds had similar facilities — say, Catholic Cantaloupes, Jewish Watermelons, Seventh Day Adventist Squash?
What makes these Baptist pumpkins so holier than thou to think they deserve their own center, even their own exit sign, I wondered as I exited Interstate 55 in Louisiana, not far from Hammond.
Baptist was one way, Pumpkin Center the other. Less intrigued, I just got back on the interstate.
(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 30th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, baptist, baptist pumpkin center, baptists, church, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, exit sign, exits, hammond, highway, I-55, interstate, louisiana, pets, pumpkin center, pumpkins, religion, road trip. ace does america, signs, traveling with dogs
I wrote down this song for my own self, and sing it now to my own soul
But if you’ll sing songs of your dreamings, then you will reap treasures untold
– From the Song “Heaven,” by Woody Guthrie, 1947
Here’s something we’ve all but confirmed on our road trip: The bigger the void, or gap, between towns, the more rural one gets, the tinier the towns, the more likely one is to pick up religious music — sometimes only religious music — on the radio.
Such has been the case in the most recent leg of my road trip – through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas again: God, it’s said, is everywhere, and that’s definitely the case when it comes to the radio in rural America.
This isn’t a groundbreaking observation. Religion and right wing views have long been more firmly embedded in rural areas — more likely to be voiced, worn on one’s sleeve, or posted on signage.
After a few days in Dallas, where God still has a lot of work to do — it seems at least half the billboards are for strip clubs — I rolled into more rural surroundings, and saw this collection of home-made signs outside Palmer, Texas, on I-45.
The Chapel at what’s called “The Church of Texas” is located on a wide swath of land abutting the interstate’s service road, much of which has been devoted to signage, the rest to a small church, gazebos, outdoor seating areas and a pond with (and this somehow doesn’t seem right) a “No Fishing” sign. According to its website, the church has “gone underground,” but it’s not real clear exactly what that means.
I chatted briefly with a man who lives on the grounds in a trailer — not the pastor, but a member of the non-denominational church — who was a bit standoffish until he got going about all the corruption of organized religion.
His dog, a dachshund, peed on my tire (a baptism?) and after chatting a bit, I pulled out, turning on the radio again — for it and Ace and radio God and my bobblehead Jesus (more on him later) are my only company these days.
Sure enough, searching for a signal, I found more God music. I’ve nothing against God music, and love good gospel, but I found myself getting slightly bugged by all the God rock – music that you don’t really know is God music until the chorus comes up and mentions “salvation” or “the Saviour.”
You’ll be tapping your fingers along with the beat, and then suddenly realize you’ve been something close to duped. I find it somewhat deceptive. If you insist on giving me a message, be upfront about it.
God comedy seems to be catching on as well, though I haven’t heard too much of it that is actually funny, or for that matter Godly. It’s generally family-based comedy, funny stories about what the kids did.
Rural Oklahoma was particularly heavy on God music. Not having many musical alternatives on the radio, and noticing I was driving on the Woody Guthrie Memorial Highway — he was born down the road in Okemah – I grabbed a Woody Guthrie CD and slipped it in. Woody is an integral part of my road music collection.
I sang along to songs about dust and migrants and labor unrest and the search for a better life. Woody’s music, it seems – not that it ever wasn’t relevant — is relevant again in 2010, when once again economic conditions and natural and unnatural disasters are shattering dreams and testing the amazing resilience of Americans. Though I probably worship Woody more than any religion, I’d have to admit that faith in God is where a lot of that resilience probably comes from.
Given that, I can handle the God music, the God comedy and God as a roadside attraction — taking his or her place among concrete dinosaurs, Indian trading posts, half-buried cars, reptile museums and the like. Each fills a need, even if that need isn’t always immediately clear.
This concludes today’s sermon.
(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 25th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, america, animals, church, comedy, dog's country, dogscountry, economy, god, music, pets, radio, religion, road trip, roadside attractions, rock, rural, woody guthrie
Dogs are “unclean” and should not be kept as pets, a senior Iranian cleric has decreed.
Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi issued the fatwa, or religious ruling, to send a message that the trend toward “western-style” pet ownership must stop, Reuters reported.
Dogs are considered “unclean” under Islam and have traditionally not been kept as pets — although there are signs that is changing.
“Friendship with dogs is a blind imitation of the West,” the cleric was quoted as saying in Javan daily. “There are lots of people in the West who love their dogs more than their wives and children.”
Guard dogs and sheep dogs are considered acceptable under Islamic law but Iranians who carry dogs in their cars or take them to public parks can be stopped by police and fined.
The Koran does not explicitly prohibit contact with dogs, Shirazi said, but Islamic tradition showed it to be so. “We have lots of narrations in Islam that say dogs are unclean.”
Posted by jwoestendiek June 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cleric, decree, dogs, fatwa, grand ayatollah, iran, iranian, iranians, islam, islamic, naser makarem shirazi, news, ownership, pet, pets, religion, trend, unclean, west, western