Getting Under The Hood

I don’t know if this is even remotely true for everybody, but for me I like systems of thought. I like for things to function well, to run smoothly. I hate it when my car breaks down—in fact, I don’t know if anything gets me quite as mad as when there is mechanical failure. I guess it is because of the expectation I place on the machinery to do it’s job well so I don’t have to worry about it. And when it isn’t doing its job it is just one more thing…. And let’s be honest here, I suck at maintenance. I regularly drive my car way over the miles that are recommended for an oil change. I check the dipstick at the gas station when filling up my tank. I know enough not to let the oil level drop too low.

Suffice it that I like stuff to work and work well. And the analogy breaks down in a couple of places as I try to apply it the way that I interact with life. I mean, no humanly devised system really can account for how stuff works or should work—at least in the arena of our complex existence. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t try to find one. Lord knows, I tried. Number one, we may be considered machines but we aren’t really mechanical in that strict sense. Doesn’t mean that we don’t perform “maintenance.” It is so clearly evident that diet and exercise and good sound sleep really are what our bodies need most. And there are some deeper options that seem to be in play a lot with us–it manifests in how we relate to other people, how we relate to our vocations, with money. You get the idea. And sometimes we need to have an expert look under our “hood” if only to help us understand why we do what we do. Sometimes their prescriptions work at other times they are only a beginning. Really our “problems” can be persistently elusive. If they don’t get corrected great damage can occur. I know this from personal experience. Many of us are taught to ignore and hope the problem will just go away. Damn, this is getting painful….

Another part of this, as I think more deeply about the analogy, is that sometimes a mechanic can suggest a fix and we think that we really know what is best for us. This is where I get into the most trouble. You see, every time I am confronted with some deep behavior I run away and I think, “let me fix this myself.”

I have this ’88 Isuzu Trooper. One of its notorious mechanical failings was a design flaw in the cylinder head. Whenever the head gasket blows invariably it happens between the second and third cylinder. Right now, I am strapped for cash, so I am reduced to fixing it myself. However, I have done some minor repair work before. And I have had a friend help me repair another truck I had years ago. I have some mechanical skill. I also have access to books describing the exact steps necessary to repair any problems.

So, I dive right in.

Here is the thing. I quickly get into it and realize that there are a lot of wires here and I really need to pay attention to what is going on. But I run into a difficult part and I am having trouble getting to some bolts and I realize that I need a special tool to get to it. Dutifully, I begin to swear. It is also really, really hot this time of year in Missouri and my frustration level begins to rise geometrically. “Damn it all!” I say out loud. And I begin to walk away.

This isn’t a bad thing, mind you. I think that it is important to give ourselves the freedom to clear our heads from time to time. I know I need to a lot these days. But I really began to wonder if there wasn’t a deeper thing going on here. So this became quite the teachable moment for me.

Mindfulness is a concept that I have begun to engage more with recently. I have done a lot of work internally to figure out what are the subconscious, pre-contemplative thoughts that are motivating my behavior. You know, the “did I just do that?” response. This is where I become really, really deeply honest with you, dear reader. I hope that you will indulge me. I recognized in that moment, when my frustration was really high that my heart (who I learned is really on my side) was telling me, “You know, this is how you have responded to a lot of things in your life, especially your marriage.”

“I don’t know if you realize this now, but can you remember when x occurred that you ran away from that too? Have you really thought about why that’s so? Here is what I think…”. So I took some time to realize that yeah, I really made a bad decision there. I don’t know how to fix the past, but I believe that I can make some steps forward to be better.

I had someone from my past point to me in a recent email how deeply selfish I have been. That hurt. And rather than respond, I had to let that sink in. I had to own what his perception was of me. Doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with the guy, but I wanted to pause and listen and not dismiss it as being untrue. In reality I think we do go through life without any mindfulness about our motives or how we are really blind to the things we do. Good grief, I know I have been.

I have also learned that the fog I lived in has really done way more harm than good and that protective blanket that I have carried around for so long is really starting to stink. In other words, I have to really own that my perceptions aren’t really accurate that my behaviors speak far more loudly than anything that I say I believe on the surface. And I wish that I had a specific set of steps that I could share with you that would guarantee your success as a person, that would set you free from any kind of pain or hardship. But…you and I both know that is just pie in the sky.

I ran into that the other evening when I was chatting on the phone with another friend. I consider myself a Christian, deeply committed to believing and following the teachings of the Jew from Galilee. Not because I believe he is a good teacher–he is–but because he is God. Back to the conversation….

We were talking about our God-concepts, the ways in which we believed God related to us. And I confessed that a large part of my framework held to this belief that Savior–a term ascribed to Jesus–meant something to me that I don’t think was entirely accurate. And that was because I re-interpreted this whole idea of Savior to fit my worldview and belief that I needed to be “rescued” rather than “saved.” Too nuanced? Let me try to explain. (Reader beware: lots of Bible-stuff here. But it isn’t apologetic.)

In our conversation I pointed out a couple of stories where I thought this was the case. For instance, remember the story of Daniel being in the lion’s den? Does he get rescued? Yes. But the dude was lying among the lions for awhile. Or Shadrach, Meshech, and Abed-nego, three dudes thrown into a furnace that was so hot that it actually torched the guys putting the three into the furnace in the first place (which is fascinating to me because the three kept on going when they obviously had to see their guards flaming up like kabobs) Anyway, they went into the fire. And the record is that when they were in there there was another guy with them. Put in three and they saw four–dancing around, no less!

Take away? Well what happened to me is that these stories felt so far removed from my actual experience because I thought I kept plugging in the right things, you know the ingredients of “faith” (stuff like prayer, bible study, church attendance, accountability….) but my life wasn’t happening the way I thought it should–at least I wasn’t as happy as I thought I should be. Result? I bailed on the process because I thought “Savior” meant “Rescue” in the sense that I didn’t have to face the consequences of my choices. Practical Theology 101: you reap what you sow. So I am careful now about how I view God’s interaction with me. And some may disagree with my view. But that’s okay. I know where I am. Can’t really be anywhere else. In other words, I view quite differently the difficulty I now face because I realize that the relationship I have with God is one of father to son, and that the stuff that happens to me doesn’t threaten nor diminish that in any way. Rather they become teachable moments that any parent experiences themselves. And I believe that God is infinitely patient with my failings, as any parent would be.

So, I am deeply comforted at where I am even though it seems crazy.

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To My Dad

I woke up thinking one day, “Who will carry my father’s torch?”

He died sixteen years ago. The memories, although fading as I get older, are still there. But there isn’t a record of his exploits. And I wondered out loud if I should put some of them down.

I loved my dad. He was smallish. About 5′ 6 ½”, brownish-blonde hair, which he kept combed straight back for as long as I can remember. His arms were stout and muscular. I can remember asking him to show me his muscles once more and wondering at the same time whether or not my arms will be like his—that gigantic. Now the eyes of a boy are wide with wonder. The world isn’t all that big and life is just waiting to be taken by the horns and wrestled with. And somewhere along the way play is set aside for responsibility and the world becomes a much darker place. It isn’t as safe but it is still wild. And I also know that any time that I write about my dad I am really writing about me.

As you dig around in the closet of your memories you sometimes find things that you never really expected, some are good, some are bad. And then you find that things you really tried to run away from are just things that are true about you. And you say, “What the hell?”

So, this is as much a story about me as my dad.

We moved from the fertile valleys of central California to the rocky Ozarks of Southwest Missouri in the mid-seventies. There were only four of us. I was four, my brother had just been born. I learned later that my parents had intended to go on to Springfield but decided on Neosho when they saw the hills of that sleepy town.

We lived in a rental on South Lafayette street. The house was yellow and small. But not small enough for a family of four. I never really found out what motivated my parents to move–I think it was just wanderlust. My brother and I shared a room. I still remember my bed. I remember the play. I remember my dad going away to work. He was a carpenter, as his father and brothers were. And a carpenter’s life is never easy. Work is spotty, seasonal. Not all the drama and glamorous tripe you see on the DIY shows. And the mid-seventies were tough anyway. I can only now understand the fear that he must have felt starting over. But there wasn’t just the fear of starting over. He was mortally afraid of tornadoes.

Central California, Modesto particularly, was a very mild place. Winters are wet, but that’s about it. Temp doesn’t change all that much, according to my parents. Not so Missouri. It is a place of extremes. Four distinct seasons. Insanely hot in the summers with high humidity and really cold winters with ice. It can be downright miserable. But the falls are wonderful and temperate. And beautiful. Nothing quite like Fall in the Ozarks. God dumps his box of crayons over the hills and they erupt with color. It’s a place that is quite unique geographically as well. The Ozarks themselves run mostly along an east to west plane which makes it the place of great weather battles between cold fronts from the north and tropical air from the south. When they work out their differences, especially in April and May, we get thunderstorms and tornadoes.

And if you have been here for any length of time, the locals make that Spring storm season almost like a spectator sport. I remember going outside to watch the thunderstorms and the fresh smell that came after all the violence.

Having never experienced them, though, my dad didn’t know what to do with them. So I can remember sitting in my living room watching old 8mm movies we borrowed from the Newton County library to get us ready for the terror. But that’s what my dad did. He faced fear. It wasn’t easy for him because he was an easy-going man. It took a lot to make him mad. To relieve any tension he may have been feeling he would run his hand through his hair. My Lord, did he do that when I became a teenager…anyway.

My dad built things. He built houses, furniture, retaining walls, kitchen cabinets, all kinds of things people use. That was my dad. He helped people. All the stuff he made? It’s still here in the town. I take friends from time to time just to see them. “This is my dad’s work. This is what he did. I am proud of it. He did it honestly.” Sorry…swept away a tear, there.

I had a conversation with him once out in our garage. I was about to travel to Montana for a couple of weeks to ask the woman who would be my wife for nineteen years to marry me. We talked about doing things, serving God, being happy. I can remember listening talking. I can remember the regret that he felt. Building house wasn’t his first choice. You see, he loved making music. He loved playing guitar. But I found out later he really liked to promote people almost as much as he like to play music. And that was something I didn’t know about him until after his death. My mom told me. But what was remarkable was the fact that in the face of the dissatisfaction he felt in not being able to follow his desire for a musical career, he continued to live and provide and be a man. He gave himself to us. He built a successful business (not based on metrics that most professionals would use) because he did it honestly, day in and day out. He came home bone-tired, took a shower, watched TV, read his Bible every night, ate a concord grape peanut butter jelly sandwich, and slept.

When I close my eyes, I see my dad dressed in his white Tee and bluejeans, his arms darkened by years of working in the sun but so muscular. They were the arms that love made. They were arms that built homes and gave things to people that have outlived his brief fifty-six years on this planet.

Thoughts On Purpose And Freedom And Other Such Nonsense…

Still pondering something today—and I am beginning to wonder if I am just getting in over my head.

Caught myself reading some blogs on philosophy with discussions on collectivism, radical individuality, freedom from spiritual tyranny. You know, the normal fare of bloggers. Really deep stuff tied to things that were more academic than I am ready to engage with (been reduced to this reality where I simply need to pay the bills and support my kids). It isn’t that I’m not interested in the discussion. It is just that I don’t think I really have the time to invest myself in these debates. In turn that makes me think, “What the hell is the point, anyway, in these discussions?” Doesn’t it just boil down to how we need to go about living our lives with truth, with integrity with transparency and honesty. I don’t know. I keep wondering what the point of all of this is and if that really, deeply, fundamentally is the point: that we really can’t know what the “point” of this existence is, that we are not really meant to create some derivative which succinctly and sufficiently explains our existential quest.

Haha. Found myself going down the same path there for a second.

The reason that I ponder this is simply because of where I am at in my life. I know I have recounted that elsewhere ad nauseum but that seems to me to be my raison d’é-tre. Honestly, this just feels more like it is part of my processing of life. There seems to be no end to it. Everyday seems to be, how can I stay healthy today ?” And everyday, I guess, the answer seems to become more and more elusive. I find myself returning to this idea of purpose and destiny and, again, I am not sure that I really buy the construct anymore. Then I secretly go to, “is that even a true statement?” Then I know that the way that I process life is really confusing. So, God, can you help me? I have really convoluted my whole existence and I don’t know what the next step is. And I guess it feels like I am the prisoner of my own choices without any hope of ever being put on parole….

Crazy!

I awaken a lot with anxiety. I have not had a serious job for over a year now. It was a year ago that I quit the job that I had which was a choice I regret a little now. It propelled me along this path that I am currently on. It led to a bunch of choices that have placed me squarely where I am…but that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about. No, I was actually thinking about authority and freedom again and the religious system that I was raised in and how I thought it was the best representation of the truth. It might be appropriate to recount some of our practices and then to write about some of the most positive elements of that experience as well. Maybe that will help me as well, perhaps give me some direction. Still don’t even know if I am looking for direction anymore. More like scratching my head wondering what God is even up to. But back to authority and freedom and the things I saw and did as a young Christian. (It’s funny how we think of being a young and old christian just like the phases of being a human being and human development and maturity. I guess Paul did that too in his letters.)

As I have spent a lot of time reexamining my own life experience over the past year—no, really years—I have begun to uncover what a lot of my deep motivations were and how I was naturally attracted to those things; it is the classic case of an abused child marrying an abuser. I have discovered that we are naturally going to drift toward those things in our lives that were unmet needs in us growing up. A lot of it stems from the relationships we had with our parents—in many, many ways it is where we our first innate “God-concepts” were developed, albeit very imperfectly.

The point of this is that uncovering those deep motivators can help you change your current trajectory if you are increasingly unhappy with the life you now live. For instance, my need to feel and understand my purpose naturally led me to find meaning and purpose within a religious organization which seemed to have an answer for reality—the meaning for our existence—because this is what my family of origin taught me was the truth.

I can remember dreams that I had wherein Jesus had returned and I had been left behind because I had really lived an unworthy life. God wasn’t proud of me. I realized later that I struggled deeply with knowing my own father was proud of me. In fact one of the last things he told me before he died of cancer was just how proud he was of me. The problem was I didn’t believe it in my heart. And the reason I didn’t believe it had to do with way in which my mother raised me. She was a rescuer and refused to let her children suffer any real pain. If we did suffer any pain we were taught to avoid it or behave as if it didn’t exist or try to pray it away, or any other number of methods we were taught how to cope with the uncertainty of life. In my own experience, because I was introverted, I learned to use gaming, pornography, and eating junk food as coping mechanisms. Ultimately I learned that spirituality could really help me with life, however I found that most systems lacked the ability to address the deep needs I seemed to possess. Bottom line, my brain learned, “that’s how you do it.”

My own history testifies to my struggle to find meaning. What ultimately led to my acceptance of Christianity was the belief that by joining myself to God I would find my ultimate purpose for my existence. And while that may be deeply true, I found that what that equated to was adopting the belief systems of the group that I joined myself to. There was a quiet expectation upon me to conform. I don’t think it was a bad thing, but I don’t necessarily think it was healthy either. For awhile it was deeply satisfying. However the experience became negative when conflict occurred. My family doesn’t have a great track record with dealing with conflict. Well, I should say, we never really dealt with conflict in a healthy way. I guess everybody deals with conflict. And I suppose what I really wanted to happen was that we would be able to be adults about the whole matter and just get along and be happy. Thus my experience has led me to believe that people are damn complicated and that there isn’t one way that is the right way. So the small church I was part of split, went through several pastors, and we developed the reputation of being a difficult church. Poof! Idealism gets thrown on its head.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to conclude that the system itself was dysfunctional, that ultimately at its core was the belief that individuals were not as important as the collective, that conformity was the only sure way to protect and reinforce existing power structures, that the organism’s survival depended on rooting out “dissent.” All of this was subliminal but it was the natural order of the organism itself. If those structures weren’t present the structure would atrophy.

What is sadly comical is that when we begin to see the system not working there are several things that begin to occur—perhaps some of my sociology friends can confirm this.

  • The Truth Hurts  People who question the status quo get into trouble. I think in a healthy environment the supposed dissent can be welcomed, discussed, examined, and appropriate changes can be made. I think a healthy person probably recognizes that they don’t have all the answers—even collectively but we sure as hell are going to try to find them because you are valuable to us. In an unhealthy environment any sort of questioning can result in a feeling of being threatened which calls for radical removal of the threatening entity. And the response probably goes like this: “We have the truth. This person is wrong. The individual must conform. If not we eliminate the threat for the sake of our own solidarity and health of the collective.” Sort of Borg-like, if you ask me. The root of this belief is pretty complex, however one can clearly find its roots in Platonic thought and his Idea of Forms. Essentially this gets played out with the sacrifice of individuality for the collective good. Who determines what the collective good is is determined by those in power (the philosopher-kings, those who “know,” hence gnosis/Gnosticism ).
  • Let Me Carry My Own Cross The narrative is that self-sacrifice is the paragon of virtue. For the Christian this has been translated as, if you aren’t joined to a church you can’t possibly be a Christian. Christianity is only fully experienced within church/community/as part of our group, along with the various proof-texts to reinforce the alleged “truth.” And to question this is, well..heretical!
  • We Have The Truth, Therefore We Can’t Be Wrong Another response is the direct conflict that occurs when both parties believe that the system/doctrine/polemic is true and one of us must be wrong. As a result, there is deep pain when true reconciliation cannot occur because it never enters the discussion that one or both parties may in fact be dead wrong about their interpretation of reality. Unless one is willing to honestly entertain the possibility that they may be wrong no real healthy change can occur.

I have heard it said that even principle-based living is the only answer. I am not so sure. It causes me to ask, “How do you know if the principles you have ‘discovered’ are the right ones?” Because really don’t we derive principles based upon our own experience in what didn’t work for us? Or perpetuate the system/doctrine we have invested in? Don’t we tend to interpret words based upon our own worldview or bias? How can we really get away from bias in our higher criticism or, as Christians, our exegesis? What kind of hermeneutic is the right one? Ah, you see. There is the rub isn’t it?

Here are some things that I have observed about the Bible: It is brutally honest about the human experience. I mean, really, there is murder, rape, fratricide, genocide, incest, sodomy, cannibalism, human sacrifice and torture. But there are also beautiful things too. There is love, romantic relationships, fraternity, adventure (of epic proportions), gallantry, triumph of faith in ridiculously trying circumstances….I don’t know of another book of ancient writings which so clearly portray the human experience so clearly and so honestly. That is why I admire it. And often because of those true events it makes it quite easy for me to trust the message that is contained in it. 

Phew! I’m tired now. For my next post I want to really start to tackle this whole idea of destiny and purpose. I’m not so sure that I agree with the pundits. But we’ll see.

Please leave a comment.

Resistance Is Futile…Well, Sometimes

I picked up my paint brushes today. It’s my birthday. Great start. I sketched out an imaginary face and it was going great until I got stuck. I remembered this feeling. Felt this compelling need to capture what was going on in my brain in this moment. So this drove me to my laptop to type something out: when desire and unpolished talent have a baby, frustration is the result. So I wanted to think more about why this is evident in my life.

I have been grappling with some deep issues inside of me. There is this desire to be an artist and try to make a living at it. I have talent. That’s undeniable. I am not saying it. Others have said it. But talent is just that. It’s just talent. If I don’t couple it with hard work and continual practice it is always going to frustrate all of my desire. And if I don’t nurture my desire it is only going to produce more frustration and unhappiness inside of me. I will be deeply disconnected from myself.

(That whiny, petulant child who hasn’t been truly nurtured really gets loud at this point.)

Several months ago I read a book which tried to understand how successful people become successful. One of the outliers was practice, about 10,000 hours of practice before one became a master. I had a couple of things happen to me when I read that for the first time: 1) deeply discouraged because these successful people had put in the long hours of practice and I hadn’t, and 2) I became very angry at myself for the feeling of having “wasted” my life.

Someone said to me the other day that I needed to get out of the victim mentality. I got mad at them too. I honestly felt that I didn’t believe myself to be a victim. God, how blinded I am! My brain! I keep believing that I don’t have the resources to be what God made me to be—fulfilling those deep, deep desires that are within me that I don’t nurture….

Wait a minute. That isn’t entirely true. I am nurturing my writing, I guess. Don’t know if I am producing good stuff but I am producing.

And another thing about this is that I have had a pencil in my hand since I was five years old! I started drawing comic book characters. Damn those lies that I believe!

So here is the rub. If we are truly honest with ourselves I think that we will find that there are many assumptions we have made about life which aren’t even remotely true. And I think that we have to ultimately say, “Begone, damn ya! I am not going to believe the lies anymore.” Especially those lies that run contrary to what we know to be true deep down within our souls. But the problem is we haven’t made any room to listen to that faithful voice. We drown it out with so much noise. It doesn’t matter what you try to fit in its place. If it makes you confused, take a moment to understand why.

Over the next several posts I will be sharing what I have been thinking about this whole topic of destiny and purpose–and they are going to be brutally honest. Hope you stick around.

It Has Been Awhile….

It has been quite some time since I really felt the courage to take my “pen” and begin writing again. But it was one of those moments where desire and will sort of collided and seemed to produce something beautiful. Don’t know if the following bits of content will justify my estimation, but I will let you, dear reader decide that.

What Does A Son Look Like?

Yeah, this is a deviation from what I normally write about, but not really. It is what I think about constantly. I try to make sense of my world as much as I can because it is really crazy. But I had a few thoughts about that. Really, it’s about identity. And most of us struggle with who we are really, I suppose.

I have been thinking a lot about prosperity and relationships. I have heard all of the prosperity preachers for many many years. I grew up in a religious culture that was sympathetic to their appeals. I watched Jimmy Swaggart fall, Jerry Falwell bring the hammer to Swaggart, and TBN rise to global status. So instead of the course correction that I thought would happen when those things occurred in the late 80s and early 90s, it seems we have gotten further off course. In fact, to see what is available on Dish, would lead one to believe that these men have become legion. And I am thinking what about this is appealing to anyone? I mean, who sits and listens to the dribble that these men (and women now) spew forth? Wish I had that demographic to examine. So how could God allow his to happen? How could this become so prevalent again? Although, to be honest, they have changed their diatribe a little. Now it’s more fulfill your destiny/purpose/calling. And I am not discounting what they say, there is this nagging inside of me that just doesn’t agree with what they have to say. And it smacks of snake-oil salesmanship. Certainly has a grain of truth but it seems so far-fetched and outrageous. I don’t know. Skeptical.

And then I think about relationship again. What is included in that? What happens when a realization of my identity and how that connects with God and his plan? I wonder what being a son really means to me? And somehow it feels like the whole New Testament hinges on this one idea, this one amazing reality of reconciliation and adoption into God’s family. I have been thinking a lot about the story of the Prodigal. I have been thinking more about the father in the story than anything else and the scene at the very end. Been thinking more specifically what it meant to the listener to hear that the Prodigal received such lavish love from the father. Look at what he received: a ring, the best robe, sandals for his feet, and then this lavish feast. How would the people listening have heard that story?

The self-righteous probably were outraged. The humble would have cheered. What kind of tug would have pulled on the hearts of the outcast? How would they have responded to this story? So, my thoughts turn to control and authority, real authority. Makes me think of the seventy being sent out to preach the good news and their return, especially what Jesus said to them. He said not to rejoice that demons were subject to them but that their names were written in heaven. I interpret that as relationship. Maybe they did too. After all they were chosen of God, his special people, people of the covenant. But even their eyes were not opened to the full extent of the covenant. Don’t think they fully grasped what it meant to be adopted and fully integrated into the family of God. Or maybe they did. I don’t know, really. I am only aware of my reaction to the story. And I am blown away by it. I am blown away because of the position that I find myself in as of now. My marriage is ending, I am away from my four children, thinking lots about making money, why I am still here, what my next steps are. And on top of all that there is this new, totally brand new awareness that I am a son and that is supposed to mean something—something really life-changing. But I can quite put my finger on it. I think it has to do with spiritual authority, or just authority in general. And now I am thinking about warfare, and how that has to do with being a son with the Spirit indwelling, giving me the utterance of “Abba,” the spirit of adoption. Thinking about Jesus giving authority to those who take his name.

I never quite got what praying in Christ’s name actually meant. Mostly, I thought it was like a magic formula. But I am seeing, of course, it isn’t. As with most other things I have thought about Christianity, that has changed as well. What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? Well, a common sense understanding means that if you take something, you are carrying it somewhere. Vain has to do with vanity. So, carrying it without thought, right? How did one carry the name of the Lord? Maybe through circumcision. That was the symbol of the covenant. And then that makes me think of the practices of idolatry that the Israelites engaged in and how furious God became because they were carrying his name into the fertility cult groves where ritualistic prostitution occurred.

I wonder what I have prostituted myself to?

Fly Rods and Foofaraw

I’ve often wondered what makes a good rod a good fly rod. Fly shops can be some of the neatest and most depressing places on the earth. I build cabinets, so I’m not rolling in a lot of money. But like any good fly fisherman I’m addicted so I need lots of gadgets. How many zingers do I have on my vest now? So, in Chicago there’s this great Orvis store. I’ve been in there a couple of times very often drooling over the merchandise. Please don’t misunderstand, I love good rods and good brand names. And if I make a purchase I will do so with thoughtful consideration. In fact, I love my Orvis rod. It’s a great 9′ 5wt. that I can pound some of the small streams around here with. But I’ve also got this Fenwick I’ve been fishing with for almost 15 years. It’s big and it’s got backbone–more than I thought. I just recently tussled with a 20+ lb. chromer and it held its own, proud to say. But I didn’t pay a lot of money for it. In fact, my dad got it for me as a gift when the three of us (my brother included) all decided we wanted to fish with the fly. But it gets the job done. You’ve got to admit, though having one of the cool rods on the water makes a statement. I see those statements all the time. In fact, we get so many guys from the Chicago area I almost feel threatened by an invasion and I’ve only been living in Wisconsin for about a year…is that normal? I almost feel that these are my home waters now and what right do you have to come fishing on our waters with your $3K outfit? Like I said, that’s an odd feeling. My mother-in-law gave me a bamboo rod one Christmas (she really understands me). I’ve fished with it one time. It was beautiful. I felt the ghost of Ernest Schwiebert standing right next to me. I didn’t catch any fish, but I made sure that those around me were watching my bamboo get in some great action. And I felt in touch with the past. I was walking in the steps of Dan Bailey, Joe Brooks, Lefty Kreh, Bing Crosby, Schwiebert, et al. The list is endless. Nowadays, it’s power fishing, trout bums, galore (I still secretly want to become a trout bum–I envy those guys). So neophyte fly fisherman beware. You will plunk down mountains of cash for the simple pleasure of holding a piece of graphite or wood in your hands and you will lose sleep over the fact that you can’t get out to the water fast enough. Oh yeah, and wait till you decide that because you have spent so much money on that fly rod of your dreams you will now have to resort to tying your own flies.