Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Guess Who?

Guess who, only yesterday, boasted that he intended to stop writing blog postings about medical stuff for the next few months?

Guess who helped rescue two large dogs back on March 27th?

Guess who — out of the kindness of his heart and the dumbness of his head — volunteered to clean up the dog yard yesterday?

Guess who avoided stepping in dog shit but instead stepped on a board with a long rusty nail which penetrated his shoe and punctured his foot?

Guess who hobbled home to soak his bleeding foot in bleach water?

Guess who had to go to Dr. Woody’s office for an unscheduled visit?

Guess who needed a tetanus shot?

Guess who hobbled out of Dr. Woody’s office to the parking lot?

Guess who felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to find Dr. Woody himself had chased him down outside to bring him back into the office for an extra precautionary x-ray?

Guess who has to take three different antibiotics, Sulfameth/trimethoprim, Amox-Clav, and Avelox?

Guess who Dr. Woody said may have to go the emergency room this weekend if the foot shows signs of infection?

Guess who is thinking about that Scripture which says, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth”?

Guess who is grateful for the excellent care he’s received from so many medical people recently?

Guess who feels like a bumbling idiot, ridiculous and embarrassed this morning?

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 2:35 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Friday, March 30, 2007

How One Guy Seeks God’s Will (in a very, very long blog post)

It’s all good news, but after today I intend to stop writing about medical stuff for a while; nobody needs to know about my every ache, pain and complaint.

However, I wonder if it might be helpful for me to go though the process of how I came to my decision about how to handle my prostrate cancer yesterday.

Batten down for a long posting

I’ve been going through this process for over five months now.

Bottom line is that after asking the oncologist two final questions yesterday, one about the meaning of some numbers in the biopsy report and one about insurance coverage, I chose not to treat the cancer at all, to adopt the Watchful Waiting stance as the disease runs its course.

Medically this means going in for more testing every few months to spot when the cancer becomes more aggressive Then revaluating what, if anything, to do next.

So this blog post will trace how I looked for God’s will and arrived at my decision to engage in watchful waiting instead of one of the many other treatments available to me.

But first let me announce that the tremors that trouble me disappeared within hours of my taking 5,000 mg of vitamin B12!

That amazes me.

(Dr. Trout — I give my doctors fictitious names related to literarily characters the physicians remind me of. Thus Dr. Trout is named for the character in Kurt Vonnegut’s novels; Dr. Woody, my primary care doctor, relates to Woody Woodpecker in the cartoon; Dr. Bay, the dermatologist, reminds me of a lifeguard on Bay Watch; Dr. Oz, the oncologist, is the mighty Wizard of Oz; and, of course, you can guess that Dr. P. is my urologist.)

Anyhow, Dr. Trout, the neurologist, had not wanted me to take this vitamin before in case the B12 might mask some other cause of the tremors, but once he prescribed the stuff, it acted immediately. I hope it lasts.

Now, all the typos I make, I can’t blame on my shaking hands.

They are all mine.

Deciding how to deal with my cancer is a more complicated story:

Years ago a mainstream religious publisher asked me to write a book for college students about How To Find The Will Of God. I chose a clever working title: If God Leads Me Then Why Do I Run In Circles?

I studied Scripture and biographies. I interviewed politicians and policemen and preachers. I reviewed my own diaries from 20 years past. I made a couple of hundred pages of extensive notes…

Then I gave up.

I have no idea how God leads us today.

Yes. Yes. I know the standard answer to the question: that you should pray and read Scripture and consult godly advisors and follow your heart and arrive at a sense of peace, etc. etc. etc.

Yet, personally I found the glib Four-Easy-Steps process usually presented for learning God’s will in a specific situation, such as buying a car, or choosing a college roommate, or deciding whether to marry Mary, Betty or Fefe La Boom — This process just did not satisfy me.

Yet, in deciding how to deal with my cancer, I found that I considered many of these same steps I found unsatisfying.

So, having confessed that I have no idea of how to find God’s will, then let me go through how I’m going about seeking Him in my own particular situation concerning my cancer.

This process may help you in your own decision making, but remember that this is just an outline of what one lone confused Christian tried. It may help you, or it may not.

When Dr. P, the urologist, first told me I have cancer, he acted more upset than Ginny or I did. We tend to regard this as just another damn nuisance. He presented us with five or six options to chose from and we had to learn an entirely new vocabulary. For instance, I’d never heard the word brachytherapy before in my life.

Maybe it was a mental block related to denial, but I could never remember the right words the medical people used. I just labeled the radiation pellets they proposed to stick up my ass as kryptonite and let it go at that.

I did learn the term DRE (Digital Rectal Exam). Boy, did I ever learn that one!

Anyhow, Ginny and I first considered several factors:

My cultural background. Being of North Florida Cracker heritage, I tend to think you only go to a doctor as an absolute last resort when you are in a terminal condition and that a hospital is a place people go to die, a place where you get septic flesh-eating bacteria if you have to go in there to get a simple chainsaw wound bandaged. Never go to a hospital because you’re not likely to walk out alive.

Intellectually, I know this view is only partially true, but my gut feeling is that the only way you should ever see a doctor is if the ambulance carries you to the hospital while you’re unconscious and can’t escape.

My Cringing At Being Touched. I’ve written about this several times before in the past couple of months (for instance see “Skin Flick” on March 1st).

Our Sex Life. Ginny and I have only been rehearsing sex for 39 years and we’re really getting the hang of it. With that much foreplay leading up to our next encounter we feel we’re getting good at it. We do not want to gamble on anything messing that up for us and every prostate cancer treatment carries that possibility.

Ginny’s Health. She controls her diabetes very well — so far. But the day is almost sure to come when it turns bad nasty on us and I want to be around to give her the hands on care she might need.

My Macular Degeneration. Dr. Lamb, the ophthalmologist, tells me that if I live long enough, I’m almost sure to go blind. That does not give me much incentive to stretch things out; it’s sort of like choosing between the Lady or the Tiger.

My Hardheaded Resistance To Change. I lead a very happy life. I love my work. I enjoy my grown kids. I adore my wife. I own a Lotto ticket that may make me a millionaire. I don’t want anything to change. And here God drops this prostate cancer thing on my head… actually on the other end of me, but you get what I mean. I do not want anything to change. I am a happy man. But being hardheaded and resisting the change God sends is dumb. I know better than that.

My fear Of Death. Am I a Christian believing in eternal life?


Am I scared of dying?

Darn Tooting!

Shouldn’t a Christian exercise faith in Christ and approach death without fear?

Maybe so. But I’m scared anyhow.

As I see it we are souls God has grafted into physical bodies. He engineered things to give us a fear of death for a perfectly good reason — to keep us from doing stupid things, like say hang gliding or motorcycle riding or fooling with Don Vito Corleone’s wife.

One amusing passage of Scripture portrays the Apostle Paul aboard a ship in a wicked bad storm. As apostles were wont to do Paul stood up and gave a speech:

“Sirs, be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve, saying, ‘Fear not, Paul…” Wherefore, Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God…”

Quite a declaration of faith in God.

But then the ship sank.

And they that could swim cast themselves into the sea and paddled for land, And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship, some hugging barrels or hatch covers or whatever struggled and treaded water and thrashed and splashed and struggled to get to land — and there was the fearless Paul, a Christian par excellent, dog paddling holding onto a board just like the pagan sailors.

In the face of death, our physical bodies react by clinging to life tooth and claw, clinging to any board, barrel or broken mast we can cling to. That’s the way God made us. So, yes I believe in Jesus, and no, I don’t want to die anymore than He did.

Anyhow, those are some of the factors bounding around in my brain as I began to seek God’s will about how to handle this cancer.

First, I said, “Damn, what a nuisance”.

I had other plans.

Then, of course, I prayed.

I prayed two prayers:

I prayed, “Lord, what will You have me to do”?

In essence, that is the only question worth bothering with. Anything else is froth and through all this believe me, I’ve churned up a lot of froth.

Then I prayed like the old lady in the Stephen King movie, The Stand. In her crisis, she prayed, “Lord, if it be possible, please let this cup pass from me. That’s the same thing Your own Son asked in the garden; but, I ‘spect I’ll get the same answer He did”!

Then, I investigated whether or not this cancer has spread beyond my prostate already. That’s why I steeled my self to be examined by Dr. Trout, Dr. Lamb, Dr. Oz, Dr. Woody, Dr. Bay, and Dr. P.

The other biopsies of suspicious areas turned out benign.

So I began eliminating options.

Dr. P indicated that surgery would be most likely to permanently cancel our sex life. Cross that one off the list.

Then there was chemical castration (sounds nicer when they call it hormone therapy). Here in Florida prisons do that to rapists and child molesters. Besides, this treatment not only kills the cancer cells, it would also cause my breasts to grow so large that with a blond wig, I could pass for Anna Nicole Smith.

Not really.

I’m not a handsome man, but I’d make one hell of an ugly woman.

Cross that one off.

And Dr. Oz discovered that because of scar tissue inside me from surgery years ago, I am not a candidate for one of the most promising cancer treatments, the kryptonite thing of radiation implant pellets (I forgot what they really call it).

Possible treatment options began to narrow down.

The Scripture says that “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in a multitude of counselors there is safety.”

Naturally I sought out wise counselors.

I talked with my family; they gave me their unwavering support whatever treatment I would chose.

I talked with my father-in-law, who died last week. He said, “Cut it out! Cut the damn thing out. Don’t wait a minute, not another day. Cut it out”.

Jack was always so shy and retiring about offering advice.

I talked with my eldest daughter, a registered nurse; she assured me that she would undertake my care should I become bedridden or anything like that.

I talked with a friend, a nurse at the world-famous Mayo Clinic, who actually gives hands on care to terminal prostate cancer patients in an intensive care unit. There I got a vivid description of how this cancer metastasizes to seek out bone marrow especially in the pelvis and spine where the cancer cells creates an agonizing amount of pain that is very difficult to control.

And I talked with a friend who urged me to drink green tea with red clover, a sure-fire cure for cancer.

I also read Dr. Peter Scardino’s Prostate Book. Dr. Scardino (his real name) is chairman of the urology department at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. His book thoroughly explains the pros and cons, history and projected future or each possible treatment. I highly recommend it.

Speaking of reading, as a Christian, I naturally turned to the Scripture to see what the Bible says about my prostate cancer predicament.

Not a word.

The closest thing I found was in Deuteronomy 23 where any man who is “wounded in the stones or hath his privy member cut off” is excluded from being a priest.

Isn’t that helpful?

However, I found a great deal of general comfort in God’s promises such as:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct thy paths.

And I learned that the word comfort is derived from two Latin words: cum forte which mean “with strength”. God does not make things easy for me, He helps me meet them with strength.

But, as I floundered around in all these factors, worries, words of counsel, hopes, fears, aggravations and frustrations, as I tried to decide which option to choose, as I felt scared of making a fatal error, a wrong choice — one thought from God’s Word helps me more than any other.

It’s found in Psalm 37:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord
And He delighteth in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:
For the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.

The same idea is found in Isaiah:

Even when I screw up and make a dumb choice, even then, the prophet Isaiah said, “Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it,’ when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left”.

My role in all this is to try to be a good man and be open to God’s correction.

For me that’s trickier than it sounds.

Remember the old proverb: “In his own eyes, no man is an asshole”.

Er, in case you’re wondering, that’s not from the Bible but I think it true nonetheless.


Can I say dogmatically that I have found the will of God?

Not necessarily.

I’m suspicious of such dogmatic declarations.

Can I say with cautious confidence that God is leading me?

Yes, I can. I am at His disposal whichever way this cancer thing goes. He deserves nothing less.

Instead of going through all these mental gymnastics, would I have made just as good a decision by simply flipping a coin?

I don’t doubt it for a moment.

Even a flipped coin lands in the Hand of God:

As the Scripture says: “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord”.

Ginny finds decision making much easier than I do. She is much more confident of the Lord’s mercy and grace. She’s an intensely practical Christian. In such a matter she simply asks, “What’s best for us, for now?” and goes with that.

Anyhow, I have chosen to not treat the cancer at all for now, to engage in the watchful waiting technique subject to close observation and periodic tests.

And after having thought all this through for months, I feel relieved to have made a decision, any decision.

I feel joy.

I feel peace.

I feel like a bowl of ice cream.

Now, do I want chocolate or vanilla or strawberry?

What were those decision-making steps again?

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 12:44 AM

Your comments are welcome: 8 comments

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

No Photos!

Hair grows on my head.

Hair grows on my chest.

More hair grows on my back.

On my forearms, upper arms, thighs and calves — hair grows all over me.

When I was younger I grew a beard long enough to tuck under my belt. I have forgotten why I grew it, or why I later shaved it off. Just one of those things you do when you’re young, I suppose.

Now, I shave every day, usually about 4 in the afternoon because Ginny gets home from work about 5 and I want to look fresh and nice for her. Nobody cares what I look like during the rest of the day.

I mention all this about hair because this morning I’m scheduled to consult with Dr. Oz, the oncologist, and make my choice of one among the five options he’s given me to deal with my prostate cancer.

One of these options involves external beam therapy or targeted radiation. Unlike the kryptonite pellets which are inserted internally during brachytherapy, a targeted radiation treatment involves shooting a radioactive ray into me hoping to zap the cancer cells from the outside.

I’m sure the oncologist would explain it differently, but the mental picture I get is one of cancer cells as fire ants in an ant hill.

As long as you leave the fire ants alone, they go about their tiny ant business eating whatever is closest to the ant hill. If you poke the ant hill with a stick, they swarm all over, biting everything in sight.

I picture cancer cells as being like those ants.

If you attack the nest and kill every single ant alive, then you have nothing to worry about. But, if you miss killing a few, then they go off mad, biting and unhappy to build several new colonies in other, more hospitable, places.

The oncologist assures me that his ray gun technology is so advanced, so modern, so accurate, and so precise that in five to nine weeks of daily treatments, he’s almost positive he can zap every single fire ant crawling between my legs.


I wonder.

If you think my ant hill analogy and mental picture is ridiculous, how about this one:

Unlike the massive general radiation chemotherapy of former days, this targeted radiation treatment will not cause all of my hair to fall out.

The oncologist assures me that I won’t need a baseball cap.


I would still have hair on my head, on my back, on my chest, on my arms and legs — all over my body except…

The ray gun technology would cause my hair to fall out only in my exact target area. That specific area would be utterly defoliated and left barren.

When Ginny and I got to talking about this possibility we conjured up a certain mental picture.

We laughed and laughed and laughed.

This is one of the few aspects of cancer to strike us as funny.

Even now I’m not sure which option I will chose. The Scripture assures us that God will guide us beside the still waters.

Even when I screw up and make a dumb choice, even then, the prophet Isaiah said, “Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left”.

I’m confident that whichever thing I finally chose, it will be the right one no mater what it eventually leads to, good or bad, green pastures or the valley of the shadow.

Makes no difference in the long run.

Both ways eventually lead Home.

The only really important thing is Who I walk with.

Nothing else counts.

However, I will make this one promise:

If I do chose the targeted radiation option, I promise not to post any photos on my blog.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:00 AM

Your comments are welcome: 7 comments

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Now that the kiddies have all gone to bed, I can tell that joke I mentioned yesterday.

I first heard this joke over 50 years ago, back when I was a Boy Scout. It shows how Scouting promotes the moral stability of the young. It came to mind a couple of months ago when tremors began to make my hands and right leg quiver uncontrollably at various times.

Yesterday Ginny and I visited Dr. Trout, the neurologist who examined me to determine the cause of my shaking. After weeks of tests and anticipation we expected to learn the cause of this quivering. Then we waited for two hours in his office because somehow between his office and the lab, a distance of maybe 50 feet, my test results got lost.

What a boost to my confidence.

Anyhow, after calling here and there to find my lab results, Dr. Trout still does not know what causes these tremors. He eliminated some possibilities such as Parkinson’s and syphilis (I could have told him that) and guesses that perhaps a Vitamin B12 deficiency causes my trouble. I’ll be taking that stuff for a couple of months to see what happens.

But tomorrow we go visit the oncologist and I’m supposed to tell him my decision about which treatment option I choose to deal with the prostate cancer.

But, enough medical stuff.

This morning, for the first time ever, the Webalizer counter for my site shows that over 10, 000 readers have visited this blog in a single month.


Thank you. I’m overwhelmed by your interest. I hope you find it worthwhile.

I know. I know. I haven’t got to the joke yet. And that’s the only reason anyone reads this stuff:

There was this baker who owned his own shop.

He hired a counter girl who always came to work wearing a short skirt, a very short skirt.

Now she was a short girl and to reach the baked goods on the upper shelves, she had to climb a ladder.

Soon all the young men who came into the shop realized that the baker kept raisin bread on the very top shelf where the young lady couldn’t reach it without going up the ladder and putting on an impressive floor show.

Raisin bread became the bakery’s top seller as the girl ran up and down that ladder all day.

One morning as she was up there getting a loaf of raisin bread for another customer, an elderly gentleman came in the door of the shop. The girl looked over her shoulder and said, “Well, is it raisin for you too, Pops”?

“No,” the old guy said, “But it’s a-quivering”.

Remember, you read it here first.

Oh, here’s a photo of one of the dogs we rescued last week:

An acquaintance moved from a house with a yard to a condo apartment complex where dogs are not allowed. After trying unsuccessfully to place the dogs, the owners made a decision. This boxer and an even larger dog were going to be turned over to the dog catcher and gassed. With much tugging and pulling (these are the two most powerful animals I’ve ever encountered) my daughter-in-law and I found a new home for each of them.

These dogs are really just too beautiful to be gassed for being an inconvenience.

Ginny says the same is true about me in spite of my jokes and my quivering.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:39 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On Being A Christian Without Thinking

For the past ten or twelve days Ginny and I have been traveling or recuperating from our trip for her father’s funeral so I have hardly made a note in my supposed daily journal.

I’m almost back.

A few random observations occur to me:

First, I realize that for the past two weeks I have hardly thought of God. Other than a few sentence prayers, no thought of Jesus has crossed my mind.

That’s cool.

It shows the importance of daily walking with Him so that when a crisis strikes, He carries us through without our straining to be religious. He controls from the background without conscious effort on our part.

The just shall live by faith …

and all that jazz.

Even when the only thing we can see are those thousands of white lines down the center of the highway, He keeps us in His mind and that’s the important thing.

Another thing I’ve realized is that when news came of Jack’s sudden death, I did not even pray about what to do. My knee jerk reaction was to immediately begin preparations for the trip. I didn’t pray about it or think about it or consider options or do any of the mental things I usually do when faced with a decision.

I began packing, borrowing a car, scraping together money, securing our house, rescheduling appointments.

Sometimes God guides us simply by making us aware of the right thing to do, letting us react. Agonizing in prayer over a decision or action is not always necessary.

I suppose if I had thought this out before hand, we may not have gone. We did have other responsibilities here in Florida. We did not have the cash to make a sudden unplanned trip. We have health considerations — all factors I would have considered if I had considered anything.

But I didn’t.

I just got things ready to go and we went.

Blind albino salamanders dwell in deep sunless caves. When you take one from its cave and expose it to sunlight, it shrivels, dries out, and dies.

I feel like that salamander when I contact Ginny’s family.

My feelings of shyness and inferiority well up inside me and all my hang-ups magnify themselves — my discomfort at being touched, my aversion to eating in public, my general unease at being around successful people, my awareness of being a failure.

Besides Jack himself (see my previous post) all the others in Ginny’s family are extremely successful, wealthy, decisive, competent individuals.

Ginny’s sister is a retired teacher. One brother is an aviation electronics expert; another is a physician; another is an attorney; two are computer consultants; one, an accomplished musician — and here all I am is a dabbler at writing, one step removed from the welfare line.

I do not do well when removed from my cave.

New environments scare me.

I feel ashamed.

But none of this was about me.

I swallowed my discomfort and did what I could for Ginny and her mother and the others as best I could.

Another thing I observed is that I made some bad, or at least questionable, decisions related to this trip to Maryland.

Topping that list is that even though my two older sons live in the area, I made no effort to contact them. Just system overload. We only had three days to stay and I chose to limit my contact. Once, the thought crossed my mind to contact Sweetie and her husband (She produces Shakespearian plays in Accokeek; I follow her blog) but I felt the time constraints too keenly to contact anybody.

Another observation: our kids here in Florida are troopers!

They came together immediately and without question to help their mother and me make this trip.

Patricia became our house sitter feeding the fish and Fancy bird, letting Rex in to repair our air conditioner, and landing a job of her own while we were gone. Donald and Helen loaned us their car and cash to make the trip, helped settle Patricia, and minded my website. Eve and Jennifer traveled with us. Jennifer drove the whole way there in a day and a half (It took me and Ginny three full days to drive back by ourselves). She assumed a professional stance as a registered nurse and cared for her grandmother’s bandages and a host of such medical details. Eve keeps in contact with the extended family so she assumed the role of hostess remembering which wife goes with which brother and the names of children and dogs. She and Jennifer cooked for 8 to 18 people for every meal. (Because of times schedules Eve and Jennifer came back separately from Ginny and me).. It was all an inspiring effort of support on the part of the kids. I’m impressed.

Two more observations:

One: Even in crisis situations, normal life goes on uninterrupted. Even with our traveling away bills remain to be paid, grass still needs mowing, sick people visited, furniture moved and dogs rescued (long story). Life swirls ahead. Ginny and I had been parked in our drive for less than five minutes on our return before three different neighbors rushed over with three different personal problems that needed attention.

Two: Important things are not as important as they seem. To drive to Maryland meant my abandoning my work on those 16th Century Puritan diaries that were so important to me… Anybody miss those?

They faded to insignificance — at least for a time.

Maybe I can resume work on them next week.

Before we left on this road trip, my three most recent biopsies occupied my mind to a certain extent but there was no way I could learn the results while we were gone. But during the trip I just did not have time to mull over such things. (The day we returned I called the lab and learned that those three were benign).

That means I only have one cancer and this nerve thing that gives me the shakes to deal with at the moment. (Thank God the shakes did not bother me much during the trip).

I’m scheduled to see the oncologist and neurologist next week… I have a great joke about the nerve thing but it is unsuitable for younger, more tender, readers so I’ll not tell it here — yet.

(I’ll save it at least till after I’ve seen the neurologist).

I suppose my bottom line in all these observations is that faith is what’s left when we’re too busy, too flustered, to enmeshed in daily life to give Christ a thought.

The good news is that He holds us in mind, even when we neglect Him.

Thanks be to God.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:02 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ginny's Dad

Jack Worthington, 1921-2007

Ginny’s dad intimidated me.

He excelled at anything he set his hand to do.

Jack Worthington was a white-haired giant standing about six foot four. He and Alva would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in June. They were the parents of five sons and two daughters.

Jack & Alva Worthington last year

Although he never finished college, as a young man Jack scored a 98 on a Civil Service exam and went to work for the Navy Department in Washington, D.C., where he helped defend America by developing naval ordinance. Over the years he earned Civil Service super-grade status.

Jack was an orphan and spent his childhood in extreme want. As a man he reacted to the poverty of his youth by accumulating every sort of possession and by treasuring the things he accumulated.

For instance in the side yard of the home he build with his own hands (he taught himself carpentry, wiring, plumbing, stone masonry, etc, to build it) he kept two boats, a van, a motorcycle, a huge model train layout, and a vast collection of geological specimens.

He developed a vast array of interests which he followed with enthusiasm. His watercolor paintings won awards. His photographic darkroom contained extensive equipment. His garden took top honors again and again. He brewed excellent beer and bottled his own fine port wine. He amassed an extensive library.

But his main interest was people.

For years Jack was a Boy Scout leader, district scout commissioner, and served on the Eagle Scout Review Board. He helped found a neighborhood association, a geology club, a garden club, and a bird watching group. He built top-notch exhibits for an area museum, collected fossils, taught exercise classes for seniors on a tv show, worked on archaeological digs, supported Democratic causes, organized dances, sponsored Elderhostel events, designed and planted a neighborhood butterfly garden, and was involved in no telling what all else.

He lived to be 86 years old.

On Monday, March 12th, after a full day’s activities (I think he was planning the Spring garden) Jack died in bed beside his wife without making a sound or moving a muscle.

Obit from a local weekly newspaper

Vicious weather struck the night of his memorial service at Faith United Methodist Church, Accokeek, Maryland. Bitter cold. Snow. Sleet. Roads closed. Traffic accidents everywhere as cars slid off the highways.

Yet, so many people attended Jack’s service there was standing room only in the church. Whites, blacks, American Indians, Philippines, old people, Boy Scouts in uniform, teenagers, family — all assembled to honor this man.

I met one couple at the service who said they’d only met Jack a month before when he helped them in some home garden project and he impressed them so much that they just had to attend his service.

Besides the two pastors of the church, other speakers included someone from the garden club, the geology group, the neighborhood association, the state museum. An Eagle Scout, a former White House aide, and several of Jack’s sons also spoke.

Earlier that afternoon I was surprised when Alva indicated that she’d like me to say something also. I sat down at the crowded kitchen table and amid normal family turmoil wrote up a few of my memories of this man who intimidated me so.

The Worthington Family in the late 1970s (There are a lot more now.)

Here is what I said at the service:

Hello, my name is John Cowart. I’m Jack & Alva’s son-in-law. I’m Ginny’s husband and marrying into this wonderful family was the best thing that ever happened to me.

In case you haven’t noticed, Jack Worthington collected things.

He was a child of the Depression when the universal credo was “If you don’t have it in hand, you’re not likely to get it”.

I understand that.

I collect things too.

In fact when we go to a yard sale and I want to buy something, Ginny says, “One man’s trash is another man’s trash”.

But Jack accumulated more things than I’ll ever be able to. And he held on to what he had.

Once when I was writing a project I needed information about a certain type of bomb used in Viet Nam. It contained fleas used to locate concentrations of the enemy. I needed to know what one looked like so I called Jack.

As soon as I said what I needed, he started telling me about it’s size, weight and color markings and the serial numbers on the casing…

“You can remember all that!” I said.

“No,” he replied, “I’ve got one right here beside the telephone on the stairwell”.

“What!” exclaimed Alva who was listening on the extension.

“Don’t worry,” Jack said, “It’s been defused”.

Another thing I remember about Jack:

As you may know, he frowned on smoking. When I’d visit he insisted that I stay 50 yards from the house to smoke my pipe; so I set up a lawn chair at the end of the drive where I could go to smoke. And early in the mornings (I usually wake up at 4 a.m.) I’d sneak out of the house and down to the end of the drive to smoke my pipe, pray, and think life over.

No sneaking out of the house with Jack around. He’d hear the door squeak and come down to the end of the drive to sit and talk with me.

Since at that time he and I were the only two men with children in the family, we often talked about the challenges of being a dad.

It’s the hardest job on earth.

Jack said that having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain!

Many men can’t take it. They sire children and leave. There’s not a dad alive who hasn’t been tempted that way.

Jack said that a Dad has two duties:

One duty is to make his children happy.

He told me about giving his kids wheelbarrow rides and about constructing this pulley on a cable between a tree on top of the hill and a tree on the bottom — Nothing OSHA would approve but the kids loved to zoom down that dangerous ride.

Jack said the other duty of a dad is to make his children unhappy — to guide them away from mistakes we ourselves have made.

I remember that back before cell phones, Jack had this radio-telephone thing installed between his house and the car. When one of the guys (I won’t embarrass anyone by saying which one) was out late on a date, Jack would grab his radio base phone, yell, “Breaker! Breaker!” and demand a return time, demand that the girl be returned home, ask what road they were driving on, and all that stuff.

Boy! I’m glad he didn’t have that damn thing when Ginny and I were dating!

Anyhow, some people would say that such behavior was controlling, aggravating, frustrating, being an old fuddy-duddy.

We dads call such behavior — love.

So, the one thing I’d like all of you to remember — if you forget everything else I’ve said here tonight remember this.

No matter who your father was, no matter what he was like, no matter how hard it was for him to say it — Remember this — Daddy loves you.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 9:04 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

We’re Back — More or Less

Yesterday afternoon Ginny and I returned from her father’s funeral in Maryland. It was a grueling trip physically, mentally and emotionally. We intend to crash for a couple of days to recuperate.

I intend to post an critique of what went on tomorrow but for now I’m too exhausted to think…

Oh, I had not had time to check before we left but I did call the doctor when we got in yesterday and my three latest biopsies tested benign so it looks as though we’re only dealing with one cancer and this nerve thing (which has been acting up all week). I’m scheduled to see two more doctors next week. After that I should have enough information to begin making decisions.

The biggest two events on our trip was seeing and hearing a flight of wild geese and seeing a russet towhee, a bird we’d never seen before.

Oh yes, the other biggie was somewhere about a thousand miles from home, I discovered that the car we’d borrowed for the trip has a newfangled gadget.

At some restaurant somewhere I pulled in to park between two cars and this alarm started blaring. I thought I must have bumped one of these parked cars. But the people sitting in the cars on each side of me looked at me like I was crazy because this alarm kept going and going and I just sat there looking at them wondering why they did not shut the thing off.

How was I to know that Donald’s car had a panic button alarm?

Nobody told me.

I locked the thing and started to walk away leaving the noise behind when Ginny realized that it was our car making the noise.

She dug the driver’s handbook out of the glove compartment and read up on how to shut the thing off…

So I did.

“Hey,” I said, “That sort of thing could happen to anybody”.

“It could happen to anybody,” she said, “But it always does happen to you”.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 11:45 AM

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Monday, March 12, 2007

A Romantic Family Interlude

How to organize the telling of this defeats me.

Where to start?

Where to start?

First, I suppose I should say that my oldest daughter drives an SUV. A huge one.

Three weeks ago she went to a tree sale and picked up a small redbud tree for me to plant in our front yard. She planned to deliver it to our house the same day but something came up, so she didn’t.

Now, my middle daughter (I have three sons and three daughters, all grown) recently traveled to California for a business conference and just returned a few days ago.

Older daughter had again said that she’d bring my tree over two weekends ago but something came up, and she didn’t.

Middle daughter called a family conference at a Chinese restaurant yesterday. She’d brought presents for each of us from her trip and she wanted to show us slides of the redwood trees, etc.

Oldest daughter (are you following this) had again said that she’d deliver my redbud tree last Wednesday but something came up. And she didn’t.

Now, my Middle daughter’s boyfriend is Mark, a transplanted yankee but a nice guy nonetheless. He, poor fellow, grew up with only one brother (I think) so he is not accustomed to the dynamics of a large rowdy family group.

OK. When eight of us gathered in the parking lot of the Chinese restaurant, Mark and Eve (middle daughter) announced their engagement! She showed off the lovely ring he gave her. They plan to marry within a year. They intend for the wedding to be held aboard a cruise ship with the Captain presiding.

How romantic.

We hugged and kissed and shook hands and patted Mark on the back and teased the happy couple. Maggie, our newly acquired granddaughter, presented them with intricate red paper hearts she had cut out (she studies some form of oriental paper cutting similar to origami).

Then we all went inside to eat and celebrate.

At the table they asked me to say a blessing and I gave thanks for the happy couple’s joy and love. I couldn’t remember well enough to quote it exactly, but I tried to say an old prayer called A Blessing On Families:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families; We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vain-glory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh; turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we be evermore kindly affectioned with brotherly love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Chow down time. Like locus in a grain field, we consumed sweet & sour chicken, egg rolls, and sushi (them — Not me!).

Table talk centered around the normal soap-opera stuff of Oldest daughter, and the recent troubles of youngest daughter, and the cruise ship, and the honeymoon in the Caribbean. And wedding arrangements and origami and internet metatags and fertility doctors and yard work and …

And I mentioned my redbud tree.

Whereupon, oldest daughter slapped her forehead and said she had forgotten about it being in the back of her SUV.

No one else seemed surprised, but Mark exclaimed incredulously, “You forgot that you’ve been driving around for three weeks with a tree in the back of your car!”

Whereupon, my beautiful wife, the mother of all this brood, said, “Mark, welcome to the Cowart family”.


My book, A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad, went bad. It did not make the grade as a finalist for the 2007 Blooker Prize. To see the fine books now on the short list for the award, please click here or go to http://lulublookerprize.typepad.com/ .


A couple of hours after I posted today's entry, we recieved a phone call telling us that Ginny's father died suddenly this morning. I plan to take a week or so off blogging to travel with her to the funeral and such. Please check back in now and then because I'm not sure if I'll be able to post while we are on the road. Thanks. -- john

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 1:34 AM

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Will The Real 4 a.m. Please Stand Up

The time changed at 2 a.m. this morning.

I missed it because last night I fell asleep in my chair in front of the tv and slept late.

Usually I get up between 3 and 4 a.m. but when I woke this morning the clock read 5 a.m. That means I'd slept two hours later than usual; but the tv weather guy said we were supposed to lose an hour's sleep last night.

So I wonder if the time moved back, when I really did wake up, was it really at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. or maybe really at 3 a.m.?

I give up!

In a few minutes I’m going back to bed and when I get up next I’ll solve the time problem — I’ll just ask Ginny what time it is.

Tomorrow the judges for the 2007 Blooker Award will announce the finalists. I view this event with anticipation and apprehension.

The 2007 award is for books published in 2006, but they must be based on blogs, and the book I entered features my 2005 blog???

The heck with what time it is — I get confused about what year!!!

I feel that I was presumptuous even to enter my book, A Dirty Old Man Goes Bad, in competition with dozens of fine writers.

My writing has never won a prize…

No. That’s not right. One of my magazine articles did get a 4th place award for being an inspirational piece once. But I didn’t enter it, it was selected at random be a panel of magazine editors and I knew nothing about the contest till after it was all over.

But with this Blooker thing I suspect that I’ve made a fool of myself by putting my work forward for their consideration… Remember the old tv Gong Show?

Oh Well, our times are in His hands.

We’ll see what happens.

Tomorrow.... Sometime

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:13 AM

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Friday, March 09, 2007


Yesterday I spent my whole day talking with people.

When I went up to pay my breakfast bill at the restaurant, the pretty girl acting as cashier hushed whatever she was saying to the guy ahead of me. She walked around the counter and whispered in his ear.

As that customer left laughing, she and I lightly bantered back and forth as we have for a couple of years worth of mornings.

I teased her that she never whispers in my ear.

“No, I couldn’t, Mr. Cowart” she said. “It was a dirty joke and I couldn’t tell that to you. You’re too respectable”.

Story of my life.

Pretty girls have always found me too respectable.


Anyhow, that was my first conversation of the day.

My daughter in law came over early and we spend a couple of hours talking about flowers, furniture, family, and future events.

She and my youngest son got married just before Thanksgiving last year and she has blended into our family so well that she seems to have always been part of the group. But apart from group activities, I have not actually known her. This was the first time she and I have ever sat down and enjoyed a one on one conversation.

I’m impressed.

Donald has won a prize.

Later in the afternoon I talked at length with a guy across the street about neighborhood stuff like trash pick-up, kids on bicycles in the street, and issues affecting property values. Now that winter is over, he and his wife are thinking of selling their home here in Florida and moving to Michigan.

Amid the above conversations, my youngest daughter came back from a promising job interview and we enjoyed talking for an hour or so before she headed back to Gainesville.

We talked about dictionary definitions and Bible passages as they apply to life.

This morning I looked up the word conversation in my dictionary; I find its meanings include: to live; to keep company with; as well as an oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions or ideas.

It interested me to find that the word conversation is also a fencing term referring to the back and forth play of sword blades in a match.

Immediately I thought of sharpening a carving knife at Thanksgiving dinner — know how you take that sharpening iron out of the drawer and whet it back and forth on the carving knife blade to get a keen edge?

That’s one picture the Bible uses about conversation. King Solomon said, “As iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend”.

The interplay of words and ideas in a conversation sharpens us both.

The things we talk about defines our relationships.

For instance, one intriguing Bible passage says, “Evil communications corrupt good manners” — I have no idea exactly what that means but I think it relates to the things we talk about.

But it appears that usually the Scripture writers use the word conversation in the sense of overall life-style, not just words we say.

When St. Peter talked about the popping of our last balloon, he said:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

So. I’ve spent my whole day talking, whetting my soul against the souls of other people, other ideas, other outlooks. And this has brought me to the place where I need to mesh my talking words with living my whole lifestyle.

St. Paul encouraged the people in the city of Phillipi : “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ… that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries…. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

Good for Paul.

Nevertheless, being a dirty old man at heart, all day I’ve wondered about that joke the pretty girl whispered in that other customer’s ear.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:59 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Family Conference (A Parenthesis)

Sorry I’m late posting again this morning.

Today, for the third time this week, my server balked at letting me (or anyone else) visit my website or blog. This is getting personal. I think that server hates me.

Or, perhaps it’s that the devil strangles my site so that a waiting world is denied my daily words of wisdom… Or, maybe God blocks the site because He thinks I talk too much. He’d rather I live for Christ instead of just babble about Him.

However, in God’s own good time my server will reappear and I’ll be able to post again. I usually get up between 3 and 4 a.m. and I like to have each day’s entry on the net before 6 a.m. whenever that’s possible.

The server is not the only thing disrupting my important (to nobody on earth but me) work of editing that 16th Century Puritan diary.

Yesterday morning my youngest daughter showed up at the door in tears. Her tale of woe included a bounced check, a dispute with her landlord, and a frustrating, fruitless job search — quite a load for a young woman to carry.

I held her on my lap for a while and let her cry on my shoulder. That’s what dads are for. We spent the morning revamping her resume before she went off for a job interview. Then I took her out for comfort food and let her crash on the sofa for a nap while I arranged a family conference tonight.

We gathered at Donald and Helen’s house where Helen served the seven of us a scrumptious impromptu dinner on a moment's notice.

My middle daughter, Eve, bubbled with an account of her business conference in California (she just flew in again last night). She stayed with Uncle Ricky and Aunt Dot while there and they attended the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco. They took her to see giant redwoods, a whale migrating just offshore, sea otters feeding, and an art exhibit featuring original Escher engravings. She claims to have tended to some business for her employer there also (but you wouldn’t think so to hear her talk about the tourist charms Ricky & Dot took her to).

She said that as her plane was on the tarmac at the airport, she watched from her window seat as a mechanic worked on the wing. He was trying to attach some loose fixture and could not bolt it down. So he took out a roll of duct tape, ripped off several strips and patched whatever it was. When several passengers who saw this repair expressed dismay, the pilot came on the intercom and assured everyone that such repairs to an airplane wing with duct tape are routine.

Feel reassured about flying now?

At our family conference, around a blazing fire in the backyard firepit we put our heads together to discuss the wounded one’s (actually we’ve all been wounded one way or another in this) situation and came up with the beginnings of a plan which may set her on her feet. Much of it depends on her. But these items ranged from a new hairdo to spiritual guidance.

While we all ventilated our feelings (we try to maintain a crap-free zone in our homes and say what we think and feel freely) yet we all tried to be supportive. For her there is now the prospect of help packing, free storage for her furniture and possibly a rent-free apartment for a short time.

Few things in life please me more than seeing these wonderful people who are my family dealing with problems in harmony (more or less) even as they tease unmercifully and bicker about the red, orange or green stickers in their “Death Wish” lists (that’s stuff of mine they each one want when I die). This sticker discussion has been going on for years at virtually every family gathering and it generates lots of laughter every time.

Needless to say, today I did not get done a single page from the 16th Century. Too busy living in this one with people who are likely to live well on into the 21st.

The world is a better place because of them.

It’s been a good day.

A really good day.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 11:38 AM

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

An Echo Across The Centuries

On January 13, 1588, Richard Rogers, a Puritan minister, wrote in his diary:

I have been veary unprofitable the most part of it, and, in respect of the times of late, litle good doinge at my booke, or yet my studying day for… wandringes and more unsetling of my minde then I have felt these many dayes. In deed no deepe falleinge into any noisome evil… yet if I had not in time espied, and found it out, and cut of the course of it, much unsetlednes with aunswerable frute had undoubtedly folowed. I was also inclineing to much peevish frowardnes, more then of late. It had been too much if I had been constreined to have set downe this… but this which I have noted is much more lamentable. And thus I may see what stayed-nes of grace there is in me, the best trial that I had of that thinge this longue time…And the next morning, rising late because of weariness, I began this wretchedness about me this day, as I have said

My own blog posting for today echoes his diary entry for that long ago day.

I too am doing little good at my book because of wanderings and unsettling of my mind. Who needs falling deep into noisome evil when plain old laziness and daydreaming serves just as well to short circuit your work?

I too feel a little inclined toward peevishness.

And yet I too see that there is staidness of God’s grace in my life.

See why I love this guy?

He resonates with me.

I got six pages of his diary edited yesterday.

It makes me happy to be back at my work.

On a sad note: yesterday a 6.3 earthquake killed more than 70 people in Indonesia and mangled hundreds of others. The earthquake generated panic as people remembered the killer tsunami that wiped out thousands last year.

I feel an affinity for the people of Indonesia, the most populous Moslem country on earth, because last year a publishing company there translated my little book on prayer into their national language. I feel really honored that they would do so.

I also feel that I should pray for the peace and prosperity of that troubled nation more than I do. I write more about prayer than I do it.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:53 AM

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Monday Disappeared

My friend Barbara just began keeping a blog in January. Her site is well worth visiting, especially the post she wrote for February 16, Silence In The Exam.

That post looks at why God remains silent when we go through tough times, when we feel we need Him most.

A pertinent subject for today.

Over the weekend the husband of one of Barbara’s friends died tragically and abruptly.

His funeral was held Monday at a large metropolitan church. He was renowned in the community and many mourners, friends, business associates and media dignitaries attended the service.

Because handicapped parking came at a premium, my friend Barbara, who has to get around with the aid of an aluminum walker, asked me to drive her to the door, drop her, bring her car back to my house, then come pick her up again after the funeral.

While I was doing this, my daughter Jennifer came over to my house to use my computer and visit. We talked a long time about various things going on in her life.

Between driving Barbara to the funeral and visiting with Jennifer, my Monday disappeared into the ether.

PS: Only days left till March 17th and since in the past I have received a fair number of e-mails from teachers and folks who are preparing lessons or presentations, here is an advance link to an article I wrote a few years ago about St. Patrick Of Ireland. The article quotes often from the only book Patrick ever wrote, a book which greatly influences my own devotion.

This article means a lot to me because of the circumstances of the writing which I explain in a note about the death of my father and the birth of my youngest daughter at the end.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:29 AM

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Monday, March 05, 2007

A Question Of Color — And A Cheap Date

With Spring in the air, Ginny decided to buy new towels for our bathroom.

That’s understandable; our present towels fray around the edges.

With Spring in the air, various retail merchants decided to sell new towels.

In case you didn’t know it, towels are strips of cloth. Preferably rough, absorbent cloth used to dry off wet human bodies. If a towel is on the floor soggy for some reason, you can always grab a pillowcase or a tee-shirt out of the cupboard; it will serve the same purpose.

Wet bodies are not all that picky.

Dogs just shake water off.

No big deal.

Except that Ginny wanted towels to match the color of our bathroom walls, which I think are either green or blue. No, they’re green… I’m sure they are green.

Just a second. I’ll go check.

Yep. They are green.

So Ginny browses through a bunch of store catalogues to pick out her towels — green ones.

Now, these are real stores, not some vendor stand at a flea market.

But do these reputable merchants tell you what color towels they sell?

Not a chance.

At least they don’t tell me what color the towels are.

One store tries to pedal towels that are — and I quote from the catalog — Celadon, Atlantic, Plum, Cornsilk, Ink, Slate, Dusty, Sienna, Spice, Poppy, Mocha, or Clay.

Another store offers towels colored: Ballet, Iris, Cornflower, Sachet, or Mellon.

That’s nice but what color are the towels?

Still another sells towels that are advertised as being: Limo, Coastal, Sterling, Sandstone, Sage, Reseda, Aragon, Willow, Partridge, Haze, Imperial, Smoked, or Ketchup.

Oh, Ketchup! I know ketchup. Those would be red. Wouldn’t they?

Not according to the catalogue photo. If I’m looking at the right one, it’s brown.

Another store sells towels colored — again, I quote — Atlas, Royal, Tavira, Medina, Giverny, Satire or Siren.

Does anyone on earth know what color these towels are?

Phooey of it!

Since green towels apparently no longer exist, I plan to keep drying off on my tee-shirt.

It’s gray.

Used to be white, but now it’s gray.

Definitely gray.

On a happier note, for some reason Sunday afternoon Ginny and I got to talking about that time way back in the Dark Ages of almost 40 years ago when we first began dating. This was up in the Washington, D.C. area.

Just for kicks, we decided to look on-line to see if any of the places where we dated still exist.

Some do.

For instance, 40 years ago we played spelunker in Camel’s Den, Crabtree, and Sand Cave. Yes, in those days we were slim enough and spry enough to explore the caves of Maryland.

I really knew how to show a girl a good time.

I also took her to the Library Of Congress and to Rock Creek Park.

You’ll notice that none of those places I took her cost a penny to go to (I was master of the cheap date); but we did date at a few restaurants. So yesterday we Google searched to see if any of those restaurants are still around after 40 years.

One place we remember fondly was sold to become an off track betting pallor.

Another place we tried to look up but we neither one could remember what the name of the place was or how to spell it. Something Italian, I think..

But, Hey, we found one.

Once I took her to Mrs. K’s Toll House in Silver Spring, Maryland. It snowed like a moose that night. Most roads were closed. When we got to Mrs. K’s we turned out to be the only couple in the place. We sat at a window table overlooking a snow-covered garden fountain. A fireplace blazed nearby. The waitresses, with no other customers to serve, decorated the lovely room for Christmas. Beauty and I held hands across the table and her eyes glistened as she gazed at me. Ginny wore her royal blue dress (memorably form-fitting) with the matching dangly blue-crystal earrings. I wore a suit. I ordered roast duck in orange sauce with some French name. We can’t remember what she ordered.

On-line we found that Mrs. K’s Toll House still exists. The website address is http://www.mrsks.com/

The pictures on that site show the garden in Spring.

But we remember winter. The fire. Christmas decorations. Deep snow. Deep blue dress. Deeper blue, glistening, adoring eyes.

Another place we remember going to for one date was O’Donnell’s Seafood Restaurant at it’s original location at 13th & F Streets where it stood for over 150 years. I don’t know how it is now, but back when Beauty and I were dating, this was where the President, cabinet members, senators, and Supreme Court Justices went for seafood.

It was not a place for a cheap date!

We went there once.

I wanted to impress her.

O’Donnell’s still exists and still serves the rum buns we remember from our single visit 40 years ago. But the restaurant is now in a new location. Their web address is http://www.odonnellsrestaurants.com/site/index.html .

As we indulged ourselves in these happy memories, Ginny remarked, “Yes, when we were dating, you took me to O’Donnell’s. Once we were married, it’s been MacDonald’s ever since”.

Maybe so.

But across any table, even now, we still hold hands.

And her blue eyes still glisten.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:20 AM

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Jesus Rose Or Rotted

This was originally posted about 5:30 this morning but for some reason the server has been down all day. You'd have to rush to make the booksale now!


Tonight cable tv will air a movie about Jesus directed by James Cameron, the same director who gave us such great films as Terminator, about a killer robot out to zap this pregnant girl; Aliens, about a tapeworm that gnaws its way out of people’s guts; and Titanic, about the sinking of the great ocean liner.

Many people are expected to watch the Tomb of Jesus, a movie which advances the theory that Jesus rotted after His death and His bones were buried in a box.

Not having cable, I won’t be able to see this film, but I have Terminator on video tape, so I might watch that instead.

I suppose I could go over to Donald & Helen’s house to watch tv. They have cable. But I don’t want to disturb them. Yesterday Helen’s blog announced that they have decided to have a baby (a second grandchild for us) so they have more interesting things to do than watch either Tomb or Terminator.

Therefore, not having seen this tomb film, I can’t objectively judge its quality.

However, common sense dictates that either Jesus Christ rose from death or He rotted in the dirt.

For people who wish to examine the issue, I’d suggest that for every hour they spend watching this new movie, they also spend an equal hour reading the last few chapters of any one of the four Gospels.

Keep an open mind and see which account rings true.

The movie company offers a glossy website with many ads, sales features, film clips, credentials, disclaimers, trailers, photos, and scads of links; the site address is http://www.jesusfamilytomb.com/movie_overview.html

On the other hand, the four Gospels are not polished Hollywood productions. They resemble four photo albums or scrapbooks filled with snapshots taken of the same event from four different angles (like four guys taking photos of the same family picnic from four different places in the yard).

The hype generated by the Cameron movie gives folks a good chance to think for themselves about whether Jesus rose or rotted.


Our Destitution Solution:

Ginny & I resolved some important financial issues yesterday.

Thursday the stock exchange in Singapore faltered sending shockwaves to London and New York as stocks plummeted.

We don’t own any stock but we know what broke feels like.

Medical bills mount.

Gasoline prices skyrocket.

Our homeowner's insurance has increased.

We can’t afford to fix the central heat and air.

The pantry reminds us of Old Mother Hubbard.

Our youngest daughter needs college tuition money.

We can’t afford all these expenses! What should we do?

Yesterday we confronted the issue of destitution squarely and took action:

We withdrew everything possible from the bank’s ATM.

And we went to the Friends Of The Library Book Sale where over a hundred thousand used books go for about $2 a volume. We wandered the display tables for hours sacking up vital books we can not live without. Books on history. Books on travel. Bird books. Gardening books. Novels. Biographies.

Our car trunk runneth over.

To us this splurge represents fiscal responsibility.

You have to keep your financial priorities straight.

Spend money only on essentials…

Then come home to gloat over all these new used books.

Incidentally, for readers in the Jacksonville area, the giant sale is still going on today from noon till 6 p.m. For readers elsewhere, to locate various library book sales in your area, check out http://www.booksalefinder.com/ then click on your state.

There are worse ways you can spend money.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:46 AM

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Wise Words To A Hero Wantabe:

Along with everything else that went on in my life last week, a number of people whose actions are landing them in serious trouble crossed my path.

When that happens, I’m inclined to jump in and help.

My friend Wes says not to.

My desire to be a rescuer is just a natural inclination. It may include a modicum of Christian compassion, or a bit of fellow-feeling for our common humanity, or the memory of how people have helped me when I got myself in trouble.

I think, more than anything else, my training as a Boy Scout when I was young plays a huge part in my wanting to rescue people from the troubles they have gotten themselves into.

I want people to think well of me as trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind…

But Friday after breakfast with my friend Wes, he pointed out that I have a Super Hero image of my own self imprinted on my own mind.

I want to be the brave guy running out of the burning building clutching the wide-eyed child who’d been playing with matches in the closet. I want to be the hero dragging the idiot who skated on thin ice back to safety. I want to carry the bikini girl in my strong, tanned, muscular arms out of the undertow when she swam in over her head.

Yes, I play the role of Superman, Spiderman and Batman combined in my own mental movies.

I cast myself as a Super Hero.

I want to be needed.




Whoa There Nelly!


Yes, that is the right word. I want to play the role of God.

Notice that virtually none of my motivations to help have anything to do with the people in trouble. It’s all about me. It’s all about self aggrandizement.

In other words my desire to be a hero and to help troubled people can be rooted in black ugly sin masquerading as a petty virtue.

Not a pretty picture.

Not only that, but my desire to be The Helper, The Rescuer, The Super Hero gets in the way of what God is doing in the troubled person’s life. He loves them more than I do and I can short-circuit God’s correction and cure for that person.

Wes explained the dynamics of how this works in two ways:

“John, you need to back off. Interference with the natural consequences of a person’s socially irresponsible behavior confirms that person in a course of self destruction. Actions have consequences. When you negate those consequences, the person continues deeper and deeper in the behavior that generated those consequences in the first place. Until that person’s actions result in a level of personal discomfort, no change will occur; she will continue to do more and more of the same thing because that’s in her comfort zone and that’s the easiest, most familiar thing to do. She’ll have no reason to change”.

But I objected saying how much I want to help.

So Wes worded his wise words more succinctly:

“When He is correcting someone, don’t get between God’s paddle and the sinner’s ass”.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:20 AM

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Friday, March 02, 2007

A Tiny Hint Of What She's Like:

Violent storms in the area prohibited me from blog posting this morning. Weather alerts,. tornado watches, and lightening strikes inundated radio and tv news. As the storm swept the South about 20 people died in weather related incidents including eight students when a high school collapsed in Alabama yesterday afternoon and five kids killed when wind blew their school bus off a bridge in Atlanta this morning.

Locally, trees falling on moving cars caused two traffic accidents. Our Main Street Bridge closed because of one of many other accidents in town.

I unplugged the computer because of lightening dangers; don’t trust made-in-China surge protectors.

Beauty, of course, drove to work anyhow.

Even though traffic reports two crashes on route she normally travels.

Me, I slept in.

But she’s dedicated.

Yesterday one of her former bosses from three years ago who now works for an altogether different agency called Ginny for information on how to use a computer system. No one in the new (better paying) office understood the system, but the boss hazarded a guess that Ginny would know.

She did.

During a slack time, Ginny disconnected, re-worked, organized and re-connected the rat’s next of computer wires, chains, cables, cords and strands of barbed-wire installed by technical support experts between her desk and the wall.

As she battled the tangle. her phone rang.

A wrong number… sort of.

It seems the caller was trying to reach a county school board ofice for information about getting help with an autistic child.

Beauty’s office is in no way related to the school system but she looked up the right phone number for the distraught mother.

As Ginny navigated through the consumer-friendly listings of government agencies in the helpful Sanskrit phone directory, the woman began talking.

The troubled, tearful woman unloaded her fears and frustrations, her wariness and pain, her despair and hopelessness as Ginny listened and comforted her.

As the conversation closed, the wrong-number caller said she thought that God must have been operating the telephone switch board which connected her to Ginny’s number.

I suspect so too.


Just got this e-mail from her a minute ago:

John, Imagine! I saw this when I went outside for a morning smoke! It was sitting on the fence next to the smoking area and kept watch on me as I slowly approached. That darn thing was sitting with its back to me and turned its head 180 degrees to keep watch on me..

A Coopers Hawk

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 12:28 PM

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Skin Flick

After weeks of psyching my self up in anticipation and apprehension, the above photo shows how I felt going into the dermatologist’s office for my first such visit ever on Wednesday morning— but it wasn’t that way at all!

Dr. Bay (I’ll call him that because he reminds me of a hunky lifeguard from the old tv series Bay Watch) proved to be a courteous, efficient young man who obviously knew what he was doing as he flicked chunks of flesh off my hide for the biopsies.

This guy is good.




You wouldn’t want to go up against him in a street fight with switchblades.

He also froze a bunch of other “suspicious spots” on my skin with his can of Raid or whatever it is he uses.

The tool he used to flick off flesh interested me; it looks like half a safety razor blade which he flexed to conform to the contours of my anatomy. I wish I’d had such a tool back when I was building model clipper ships; it would work great for cutting rigging.

First thing when Ginny and I went back into the exam room, I told his assistant about my strong aversion to being touched (aphenphosphobia). She prepped me with that in mind and forewarned Dr. Bay that he had a nutcase on his hands.

But you’d have been proud of me.

I didn’t shriek or start or scream or climb the walls hardly at all.

Well, ok; I did cringe and shutter a bit now and then.

There have been a rare few times when a stranger, say a waiter or waitress in a restaurant, unexpectedly touched me that my body reacted by stopping breathing.

Inevitably when that happens, the stranger will notice my distress and, in an act of helpful kindness, begin to pat me on the back!

I feel ridiculous. But in normal day to day life, this quirk of mine presents no problem because, unless you’re a football player, people just do not go around touching other people. So my irrational reaction hardly ever comes into play.

Problem is, that over the past two months I’ve seen more physicians and nurses whose duty it was to touch me, than I’d seen in the previous 67 years. Thanks be to God I’ve enjoy fine health.

One thing I do when subjected to horrible medical procedures which generate panic in me (such as having my blood pressure checked or having my temperature taken) is to envision a happy peaceful place and move my mind out of the exam room to that place.

Yesterday in the dermatologist’s office, at first I focused on a museum-quality watercolor on the wall of the exam room, really a cut above the usual K-Mart art-by-the-pound stuff I’ve been seeing in other waiting rooms recently.

Then I calmed my mind by envisioning the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life:

The place I most frequently imagine is Ichetucknee Springs, a freshwater spring system an hour’s drive from Jacksonville. When I was a Boy Scout, long before Ichetucknee became a state park, my troop camped there often.

In the exam room I felt the crystal coolness of the spring. I watched wisps of mist dance above the spring run at dawn. I tasted the purity of the springhead. I heard the call of loons, the croak of frogs, and the grunt of gators. I remembered diving for mastodon bones and Paleo-Indian spearheads on the sandy bottom.

When I think of Heaven, Ichetucknee is what comes to my mind.

Then somebody touches me and I jerk back to the first photo in this posting!

No, seriously, Dr. Bay and his assistant, even though they do dozens of such procedures every day, recognized that this was a first for me and helped me in every way possible. Biopsy results will be known in about two weeks.

Afterwards, Ginny helped me dress and walked me to the checkout counter.

That’s where the shakes caught up with me. I turned to jello and started quivering so violently that the counter clerk urged me to sit down until I assure her that this is normal for me after being touched.

Why is it that in doctors’ offices and hospitals where you need it most, smoking is not allowed?

Let me emphasize that for any normal person skin biopsies are no more traumatic than shaving. No pain. No discomfort. Don’t hesitate to have it done if you need one. You could go have it done on your lunch hour and be back at your desk in no time.…. Unless you’re an utter spineless wimp like me.

You know, I’ve heard other Christians gush about how Christ gives them peace of mind. That’s a big selling point in evangelism.

That’s beyond my experience.

The best I can say is that the Lord helps me function at my current level of anxiety. And that gets me through.

Fortunately Dr. Bay’s office lies near one of Jacksonville’s most beautiful parks where a World War I memorial soars above the river. Ginny lead me there to recompose myself after I’d decomposed so badly at the check out counter.

A flock of pelicans fished for finger mullet just offshore. We watched joggers and jigglers trot past on the Riverwalk, and dog walkers stroll, and squirrels chatter among the acorns. She held my hand and assured me that I’d done ok.

We drove up to Whiteway Delicatessen for a delicious high cholesterol breakfast of sausage, eggs and home fries (It’s insane to try healthy food just after a doctor’s visit!).

At one point Beauty said — at least I thought I heard her say, “Do you want peace of mind?”

Puzzled, I asked her what she meant.

The second time, I heard her aright.

She said, “Do you want a piece of mine” offering me a slice of her toast.

Means the same thing.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:35 AM

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