Hi, [friend].


I have successfully put up my website again, using the new technology.  To do that I needed a piece of software downloadable for free from a place named Bitnami.  One of the things you purchase when you acquire something for free is vulnerability.  A virus rode merrily along onto my computer when I downloaded the free software.  It turns out that the software did cost me something: hours of headache trying to rid myself of the virus that I contracted with the software.  And here’s how indifferent some people are to the Christ in me: I started getting phone calls from some guy with a thick Bengali accent and said his name was Bob.  He informed me that this was the technical department calling and that he had a report that indicated that my computer was infected with a virus.  I asked him if the software notifying him of my virus was named Reg Clean Pro.  When he said it was, I told him that I know a little about computers and I have determined that the virus my computer had was Reg Clean Pro.  When I told him that I wouldn’t pay nickel one to him to remove a virus his company had jammed into my computer without my knowledge, he asked me how I thought his company would survive if they didn’t charge for services such as removing viruses whatever they are named.  I could only assume that Bob was evil, really badly informed, or just insane.  Shortly thereafter I concluded my conversation with him.


I had to completely wipe my disk clean and rebuild my work environment from scratch.  That took me several days.  During that time I recognized how much of my interaction with the world is through my computer, including communicating with you.  I couldn’t even send you a note saying that my radio silence was not beyond my control but that I needed time to get back to where I could communicate with anybody which would take a couple days.


My sense of isolation was enhanced by Adele’s absence.  About a month ago she said that she had to get out of the cold and dark and asked me to research where on the edges of the continent it might actually be warm enough to melt water outside and light enough to read outside.  I didn’t want to travel and I hate to say no to her.  Fortunately I have blood clots in my legs and when I reminded her of that state, she agreed that it wouldn’t be smart to put me back on a plane when I actually had blood clots started.  She asked me if I was okay with her going to LA to visit her brother, which was my plan B too.  I was completely okay with that, I said.  So off she went a week ago, leaving me alone – which I enjoy, actually – with the dogs, who are poor conversationalists, much as I love them.


So, alone in my house, except the aforementioned dogs, and bereft of my electronic channel to everybody else, I thought about you and how isolated or not you generally feel.  My sense of you is that you relish time alone as much as I do, but I still worry about you.  Worry is too strong a word, but I hate with a passion the word “concern” so I don’t use it even when my worry is about as strong as a concern.


Anyway, here I am writing a much longer letter than I intended to so let me start over.


Hi, [friend].


I have been thinking about how your last sermon went, but have been unable to inquire because I have had computer issues.  You told me that you were about to step before your congregation, and one in small town Nebraska no less, and ask them if they were doing the right thing by being followers of Jesus, something that takes a lot of ovaries to do.  I am curious about what you said, whether it was very much of what you intended to say, and whether you still have a job.


Sorry about the length of the letter.  Well, sorta.


I think about you out on the prairie.


As always, your friend,





   The videos  you sent me of the kids climbing along the edges of terrifying heights is hard to watch.    The worst unsolicited fantasy for me is suddenly being able to see myself balanced on the back legs of a chair on the edge of a tall building.  Backwards.  I bought the book To Reach the Clouds by Phillipe Petit, the lunatic who walked the wire between the WTC towers, because it has a photograph of what is the most horrifying situation imaginable to me: lying on my back on a wire 1100 feet over concrete, which we all know is pretty hard.  Every vision of heights like that makes my perineum tremble.

   Several times each week, as I am proposing to drift into sleep, I will see something like one of these images and lurch back into full wakefulness.  One evolutionary psychologist has speculated that the commonness of jerking awake is a remnant of an adaptation we needed to make more than a million years ago when we climbed trees at dusk to sleep.  The genes of members of the community who weren’t hypersensitive to slight changes in their relationship to the tree, the ground, and gravity were quickly weeded out of the gene pool. I also have to wonder what is going on in the lives of those boys to prompt them to do what they do. 

   I am not surprised that this happens to young people in a culture as maladapted to reality as the Russian culture seems to me.  It also smacks of addictive behavior to me.  I wonder how often boys – why is it always boys? – die playing in this way. These videos also bring to mind the nutty videos that are all over the web.  One shows a boy putting a bottle rocket up his ass and, with the assistance of a friend, pointing his ass at the sky, and lighting the bottle rocket.  You even hear a friend recommending to “pull your sack aside.”  The rocket fails to depart from his body so it ended up spraying fire all over his ass and scrotum.  And his friends held him in position, took a video of his wretched experience, and laughed hysterically while their friend was in the first seconds of a serious pain he would feel for weeks – imagine the emergency room explanation – and then, of course, published it on youtube.  There are scores of pictures of boy – boys again – attempting to ride tricycles down concrete stairs, intentionally putting chili powder in their eyes, and attempting to leap from one two story structure to another and failing every time. 

What is going on?  I don’t get it.  I’m missing something and I don’t think it’s because I’ 62 years old and live in the suburbs


Much love from the northlands.


March 26, 2014