Rabid Fun

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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Question God

I have something important to say but I don’t know how to say it.

I’ve made a couple of starts on this post but deleted every one.

That’s because I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I need to think this through more.

I’ll try next week.

The question I’m worrying is why awful tragedies befall people, good people, bad people, indifferent people, guilty, innocent babies… If God is love, why do hateful things happen?

I don’t have an answer. Not one that satisfies me.

Only some isolated thoughts, and they seem ineffectual clichés .

Let me get back to you on this.

Meanwhile, Saturday morning Ginny and I enjoyed a lovely time in our garden. While working on the Google Books and William Short’s Diary, I neglected our yard shamefully. It was good to get out there again.

While Ginny re-potted flowers, I edged and mowed. Then we spent the rest of our workday sitting under the awning, sipping coffee, smoking and talking about other work we could do—if we were a-mind to.

Without moving from our chairs we watched a hummingbird, a woodpecker, scores of dove, cardinals, bluejays, titmice, chickadees, a thrush, a pair or wren, and a bunch of LGBs—that means little gray birds, meaning we don’t know what they are.

All so pleasant. All so lovely. All so peaceful.

Why did God let this happen to me?

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 @ 4:09 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Was It Something I Said?

Friday, for the first time in ages, I checked my website statistics. Google Analytics tells me that in the past month 3,417 readers from 88 countries visited my site. My writing so fascinated these readers that they each spent an average of 39 seconds on my site.

Wow! Isn’t that cool!

As I passed my cursor over the Analytics world map, I wondered why anyone from this nation or that one would visit my site—then it occurred to me that they may be checking me out because of my site name, The Rabid Fundamentalist at www.cowart.info.

Funny why I chose to name my site that:

Back when I was young, for about ten years I worked part-time at a local newspaper as an Editorial Assistant—that’s the job title for a mail clerk who can be blamed for a lot of things that go wrong at a newspaper. Like the time I authorized renting a helicopter without asking a boss first.

Because of my night and weekend hours, about 80 per cent of the time I was the only person in the building while I worked.

When the team of editors became aware that I am a Christian, they began to tease me and called me “that rabid fundamentalist, Cowart”. The nickname stuck. I thought it was funny and when I passed along copy or notes, I signed as Rabid Fundamentalist. That’s how I was logged onto the computer.

Once, I decided to try my hand at writing by submitting a column about being a fundamentalist Christian; my first column was titled, Fun With Fundamentalism. A copy of that first column is at http://www.cowart.info/Rabid%20Fun%20columns/Rabid%20Fundamentalist/01rabid.fun.htm .

The editorial committee thought it was funny. They asked me to write a weekly column of religious humor.

I felt I was on my way. For a couple of months as I wrote that Rabid Fundamentalist column I dreamed of syndication, fame, and untold wealth.

Then one week I wrote a column titled The Party At The End Of The World. A copy of that column is at http://www.cowart.info/Rabid%20Fun%20columns/Party%20at%20End/Party%20at%20the%20End.htm

This column outraged some local clergy. I never saw them myself, but I understand that a delegation of eight angry clergymen visited the managing editor to protest.

The Rabid Fundamentalist column was yanked that same afternoon.

Through this circumstance I did not loose my job as mail clerk, but it seems that through this incident God called me to write obituaries for my next few years at the paper.

This pained me, but I suppose the Lord knows what He’s doing.

I think the Lord God is more interested in my walk with Him and in developing my character than He is in what I happen to be doing to earn a living.

As Saint Paul said, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him”.

So then, let me tell you about the time when I…


Never mind.

You can stop reading now.

Our 39 seconds are up.

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 @ 1:25 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cool August Reading

When Ginny and I go to the library, which we do almost weekly, I gravitate to the horror, action/adventure, or mystery shelves. I seek favorite authors and familiar types of literature; Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Sally Spencer, and Connie Willis hook me. Books with black spines with red lettering attract my attention.

To avoid a one-track mind, in addition to “my books”, each week I try to check out a book in a subject area far afield, some book to do with a subject I have little interest in.

Yes, an intellectual diet of blood, guts, gore, and mystery, fun as these elements are, stagnate the mind.

Since August temperatures here in Jacksonville, Florida, hover around 90, give or take a few degrees, I’ve been reading about Henry Hudson’s explorations in the Artic. I’m reading Peter C. Mancall’s Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition Of Henry Hudson (N.Y. Basic Books. ©2009. 303 pages. Illustrated. Maps. Indexed).

In the space of five years, Captain Hudson voyaged to the Artic five times in three different wooden sailing ships; Hopewell, Half Moon, and Discovery.

Backed by merchants in London, and once in Holland, he sought to find a Northwest Passage, a quick route to the spice lands of the Orient. Spices could preserve food in those days without refrigeration. Spices acted as medicine and were widely regarded as the Viagra of the times. Spices made men wealthy. Contenders for the spice trade fought wars. If England could find a way to the Orient without having to sail around Africa or South America, King James would rule the world..

Yes, Henry Hudson’s last voyage was in 1611, the same year the King James Bible was first translated and published.

Ice. Whales. Ice. Walrus. Ice. Seals. Eskimos. Ice. Narwhales. Ice. Sheet ice. Ice flows. Icebergs. Glaciers.

“Fierce winds racing up to 30 miles per hour across the water made the average temperature …30 to 40 degrees below zero,” Mancall wrote.

Hudson discovered New York’s Hudson River, giving the Dutch, claim to the place, and Hudson’s Straight, and Hudson Bay—but he could find no way through the ice to the lands of spice.

Two of Hudson’s crew, Abacuk Pricket and Robert Juet, kept brief written accounts; much of Hudson’s story comes from their records.

On Hudson’s final voyage, when food began to run short, crew members rebelled.


Ringleaders forced Captain Hudson, his son, and all the sick men aboard the Discovery into an open boat called a shallop. To keep control, the mutineers told their captives it was only temporary while the crew looted food stores—They lied.

They cut the rope letting the shallop full of sick men drift off into the ice never to be seen again.

This happened in the southern reaches of Hudson Bay at a place named James Bay. Mancall reasons that the marooned sailors in the shallop may have made landfall and tried to winter there.

As to the mutineers, as they tried to find food ashore, Eskimos attacked them harpooning several. Survivors, who claimed to just be along for the ride, swore that all the insurgents had been killed. They would. They were tried for murder once they returned to England. Of the original 23 men who sailed from London, only eight returned.

What happened to Hudson and the loyal men adrift?

No one really knows.

But Mr. Mancall speculates:

They probably died one after another, succumbing to a brutal chill that never ceased to freeze their bodies. Or scurvy could have killed them if they had failed to lay in enough cockle grass to ward it off. If they fell victim to the disease, their gums would have bled, their teeth might eventually have fallen out, and any bones broken earlier could have fractured again; the men would have become dehydrated from diarrhea, sunk into depression, and eventually expired. Some might have suffered frostbite, leading to gangrene and death. If they chose to burn sea coal, which could have washed up on the shore and was a common source of heat in this era when wood was not available, they might have died of carbon monoxide poisoning, a fate that possibly befell an earlier shipload of English men sailing in search of the Northeast Passage in 1553. Animal attacks, especially by polar bears or wolves, could also have taken them.

At first, the ill or injured could have been tended by those who remained healthy. But eventually, the men still able to nurse others also would have grown so weak that they could do no more than haul the corpses of their companions into the snow. If they lacked the strength to bury the dead, they could have put off the task until the next summer's thaw. One can imagine the bodies dragged out of the hut, their clothes increasingly shredded by wind. Eventually, scavenging bears, wolves, and foxes would have gnawed off the frozen flesh, ultimately obliterating any sign of the men's existence.

Yes, it is good for me to read non-fiction, to read history, to read something instead of my standard horror fare. Keeps me cool and keeps me from getting morbid.


Yesterday I maligned Google Books in my rant.

I apologize.

Although I had to learn how to do a spreadsheet this morning, uploading those 22 books proved much easier than I expected. The botheration came in preparing my own files to meet Google Books’ strict prerequisites.

Once I uploaded my files, the Google Books site tells me that it may take their experts several weeks before my books actually show up in the Google Book Program.

There’s a reason for that.

I think it’s because the gurus at Google Books are much smarter than I am—they don’t use computers to process this stuff.

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 @ 3:48 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Computers, A Piece Of Cake

I, John Cowart, by the Grace of God, King of Geriatric Geeks, do hereby issue the following proclamation concerning computers in general and Google Books in particular:


Well, other Royals hardly ever use that kind of language—except maybe the first Queen Elizabeth when she saw the sails of the Spanish Armada in the English Channel.

Yes, yesterday I braved the intricacies of Google Books’ perimeters trying to format about 20 books I’ve written or edited for inclusion. I flat gave up on the ones in other languages. The folks in Germany, Indonesia and the Philippines, if they want my books listed on Google Book Search, will just have to register the texts themselves.

But, with my books in English, all I had to do was reformat the Word documents, scan in new photos of the book covers, rename scads of files, create pdf documents, resize and transfer stuff to new, renamed (in 13 or so digits without spaces) folders.

Challenging work considering my level of computer skills.

I know how to cut.

I know how to paste.

I know that if you click on a thumbnail photo of a bikini girl, her attributes grow large enough to fill the screen.

Nevertheless, armed with this knowledge, a prayer, and a blissful, confident attitude, I undertook to prepare my books for wider distribution via the Google Books simple 82-step process.

Worked fine till I got to book # 17. I prepared that file in exactly the same way I’d done the previous 16 files, but an error message appeared. It said, “Failed For An Unknown Reason”. Then a little box appeared which said I could click “OK”.

Nothing else. Just OK.

Why OK? What unknown reason? If the computer could not figure out what went wrong with that file, how am I supposed to?

A Scripture came to mind—from St Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth, Chapter 14, where he said:

“God is not the author of confusion, but of peace,… But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant….Let all things be done decently and in order”.

That’s one Scripture I can obey—the part about staying ignorant.

I’m good at that.

If God is not the author of confusion, then just who do you think it was that set up the Google Books system?

Answer me that.

But, I press ahead.

I think I can solve the problem. Piece of cake.

Like that high-tech bakery that utilizes a computer/ cum laser/ cum inkjet thingy to decorate and letter their cakes with precision…

Precision that is if you type in the right Hyper Tense Markup Language.

If I don’t, my books may come out looking like Aunt Elsa’s Birthday Cake:

This photo comes from the Cake Wreck Blog at http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/ ; they are worth a visit.

Meanwhile, I join with that other king, the one who wrote the Psalms, in praying, “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.

Er, make that more confusion.

Piece of cake.

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 @ 4:41 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Practice Run

In my diary entry yesterday (posted about 4 a.m.) I said I’m planning to write a book about following God’s will and my working title is If God Leads Me, Why Do I Run In Circles?.

Then, I spent all day yesterday practicing for that book—not the God leading section, but the running in circles part.

I drove Ginny to work so I could keep the car. I made her late so she had to dash into the building but one of her co-workers sat outside in the smoking area with me and we talked about her dogs and about good places to go camping.

By then it was time for me to go to the Jacksonville Fire Museum. For the past 35 years I’ve accumulated a bunch of books, artifacts, and stuff related to Florida history focusing on Jacksonville, and I’m talking with the curator about selling my collection to the museum. We’ll see what happens.

Leaving the museum, I drove to an antique store only to find the item I’d seen there two weeks ago had already sold to somebody else.


(That’s a local curse word, an old shrimper’s term for when you cast your net but it brings in nothing but water).

Then I stopped to visit a cancer patient. There was no chair by his bed so I stood while he talked my ear off. Beginning with vicious racial remarks then moving on to rant about taxes, insurance companies, city government, and Social Security, he raddled on and on. My feet ached so bad, burning and stinging from standing so long. I had other business I needed to attend to—but the old guy talked in a panic as though I were the last audience in the world…

Then the thought occurred to me, I just may be his last audience in this world. It behooves me to stand here and listen.

Do you suppose God’s feet hurt while He’s hearing me ramble on and on about the same old things He’s heard me say a million times before? Remember, He does have nail scars.

Breaking away, I drove to the bank to pay our mortgage. And speaking of feet… A num was in the bank ahead of me. I mean the old fashioned kind of nun with white bib, a wimple (is that what you call the huge fancy head-gear with wings?) and long black skirts…

And peaking out from under the edge of her floor-sweeping skirt, I saw she was wearing electric, day-glow, blue flip-flops!

Immediately I thought of that Scripture, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

I doubt that either Isaiah or Paul had blue flip-flops in mind when they penned those words, but that’s the Scripture I though of.

From the bank, I drove home to pick up some papers I’d forgotten before leaving this morning. Then to Dave’s Diner for a late breakfast, then to Wal—Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here—Mart Super Center. Where I walked miles to the aisle where they always keep the product I came for. And as I walked, I impulse bought a basketful of other stuff that struck my fancy. And I got the aisle to find the stuff I wanted had been moved—to make way for Christmas toys! (I mean it is still August, isn’t it?) So a helpful employee directed me back the way I’d come, but the stuff was not there either.. So another helpful employee ping-ponged me back thataway. And I finally found the aisle I wanted—only to find they no longer stock the stuff.

I said a bad word.

It wasn’t waterhaul.

I was a bad boy. I left my full shopping cart sitting right there in the middle of the aisle and I walked out of the store without buying anything. I’d spent over an hour, but not one penny, in that store.


Then I drove to a pool supply store where the young man thought I looked too old, decrepit and feeble to carry a bucket of chlorine tablets out to my own car.

He was right, but he didn’t have to let me know it!

Young whippersnapper!

Then I drove to a plant nursery to buy Ginny a flowering Crown-Of-Thorns cactus—but they tell me it’s not a cactus. It may not be a cactus, but I’ll bet it cost a whole lot more than the original Crown of Thorns it was named after.

Then I drove home to unload things.

Checking my e-mail, I found a note from a lady named Betty about a story I wrote back in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Betty said, “I remember this story, almost word for word, from maybe 20-25 years ago … It had a huge impact on how I lived my life and I've recalled it as a favorite modern-day parable many times in different conversations…over the years”.

I feel that so much of what I write disappears without a ripple. So Betty’s note certainly gave me a lift.

Oh, the story she found online and mentions is “The Boomerang Food Basket” at http://www.cowart.info/Monthly%20Features/Boomarang/Boomerang.htm .. I’ve included it as a chapter in my book Gravedigger’s Christmas (available at www.bluefishbooks.onfo ).

Anyhow, by then it was time to pick Ginny up from work, so I drove downtown. Then we drove to the Main Library. Then we drove to a restaurant for supper where Ginny ran into a friend of hers whose husband, Billy, suffered a bad fall and is undergoing surgery today.

Finally we drove back home—full circle to where the day started.

Thus I ran in circles all day.

Did God lead me?

Does He lead us in mundane run-around-chores?

Is He Lord of the Ordinary?

Does the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Savior of the World, Risen Lord of Life—does He preside over times when the highpoint of the day is seeing a nun wearing blue flip-flops?

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet…”

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 @ 6:03 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moving From Here To Where

Where am I headed?

And why am I in this hand-basket?

Yes, I’m moving ahead again. After a lull. After I finished editing and publishing William F. short’s 1854 Diary, I experienced a backlash, a letdown, which put me in a stupor—that is, more of a stupor than usual.

This always happens at the end of a difficult project. I go to afterburners to complete the task, and I fool myself into thinking I can maintain that pace permanently, then like a calf roped by a cowboy, or like a thief on the scaffold, I hit the end of my rope, and swing in the breeze, not going anywhere.

Short once said in a diary entry: “Today I thought much; did little”.

I can go him one better, “Today I thought little; did less”.

That describes many of my recent days.

After a lull, during which I kick myself for being a lazy, useless, sorry, no-account, I slowly recover and begin to function again on a low level until the mania for writing builds up steam and I start the process all over again.

And here’s the thing: during all this I’m a Christian seeking the will of God for my life from where I stand at the moment. Yet, I am victim to the cyclic effect of my own work habits and psyche. I know this letdown happens, but I fall for it every time. Some folks never learn.

So, at the moment, I’m moving in three similar directions:

First, off and on I continue to transcribe Barbara White’s prayer diaries—a long term task which is essentially clerical.

Second, my e-friend Sherri, who is knowledgeable about marketing, recently stimulated my thinking about promoting my books. Although I resist self-promotion, she pointed out the value of certain steps I can take—and she made a lot of sense. So, last week, when a newspaper reporter called, I agreed to an interview and was quoted in last Saturday’s paper.

See, Sherri, I do listen.

In the same vein as Sherri suggested, I’m investigating uploading 20 or so books into Google Books—a daunting task. I asked my son Donald, a computer whiz, to help me with this, but he’s deeply involved with more important projects.

Not only is Donald working full time as a computer network manager, being active in his church, supporting his family, and getting his daughter into college, but in a couple of weeks he enrolls in seminary to study becoming a Christian minister.

Full plate!

I’m proud of him.

But, his busyness means I’m on my own navigating the intricate shoals and rocks and PDFs and Java ™ Platform SE Binary and Co-Branded Search and APIs and spreadsheets and territorial rights and 10 or 13 character ISBNs with leading zeros and HTMLs (whatever they are) of Google’s complex process… Oh well, if God wants it done, I’ll get it done; if not, it’s all Donald’s fault.

Third, I’ve decided on which book idea to pursue next.

Years ago, I defaulted on a book contract to write a book about knowing the will of God. The working title of my book was to be If God Leads Me, Why Do I Run In Circles?

I took the publisher’s advance money and pocketed it. Then things came up. Disturbing things which made me realize that I know virtually nothing about the Lord or His will. I made many false starts and wasted hundreds of pages of text trying to write this book.

I just couldn’t.

The publisher exercised great patience again and again, moved deadlines several times, then gave up on me, and forgave my debt.

Yet, this book idea haunted me off and on for all these years.

After finishing the Short Diary, I made a list of some book ideas I want to do. Six of eight topped my list as I sought God’s will about what I’m to work on next. That defaulted book kept rising to the surface as I weighted pros and cons about my list.

While I pondered what to do, I did common everyday chores, mowed grass, cleaned the fish tank, read library books, washed dishes, watching the Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed video …. As I did these mundane things, a slow conviction grew that now is the time for me to finish writing If God Leads…

I know less about finding the will of God for my life than I did when I was cocksure and younger. In fact my faith wobbles like a kid’s spinning top running down. I feel less confidence than ever before in my life. Yet, I suspect If God Leads should be what I should write next.

Yes, I used to be indecisive. But now I’m not sure about that.

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 @ 4:36 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

41? ... 42? ... 44!

It’s safe to say that Ginny and I have been married for 40+ years. We honeymooned in the oldest continuously occupied city in the U.S., St. Augustine, Florida, about 35 miles south of Jacksonville. Although it will not be our anniversary for a couple of months yet, we spent last Sunday driving to St. Augustine to revisit some of the places we remember from our honeymoon.

Great fun!

We arrived in the Old City in time for breakfast at a restaurant overlooking Matanzas Bay. Here’s a photo of Ginny at our table; she looks so beautiful, fresh and happy:

After breakfast we sneaked out for a smoke into a walled private garden courtyard behind the place where Ginny posed by a misplaced lamppost where once a street may have crossed the property. While there, a young man came out for a smoke break and revealed that he’s been married for only a year. He’s already feeling some tensions of married life and was amazed that we remain romantically in love after 41 years. I told him one secret is to simply learn to tolerate each other when that’s the best you can do.

Gin and I along with scores of other tourists strolled the length of St George Street and paused to rest at the old slave market. There some lady snapped a photo of us together as we discussed the question of exactly how long we’ve been married.

We strolled browsing amid shops and paused for ice cream and coffee near the old city gates and I took this photo of her with the old fort in the background:

We toured the Lightener Museum, an exquisite collection of Victorian stuff and other stuff that took the fancy of Otto C. Lightner, a wealthy collector who housed his collections in the lavish mansion of the old Alcazar Hotel.

We saw a number of exquisite inlaid—well, I call them writing desks, but there’s a fancy term for them—that had belonged to Napoleon. One of these desks has over 200 secret compartments and pigeon holes.

And we saw a gold gilt, two-person, swan rocking chair, the kind that temps you to cuddle:

I enjoyed seeing the stuffed lion, the shrunken head, the Egyptian mummy and the bronze or marble statues of naked women.

Ginny enjoyed browsing through collections of old buttons (like from dresses and shirts), crystal bowls. She enjoyed the polished ballroom and the spiral staircases of the old hotel. And she admired a tiffany lamp with a glass shade formed in a dragon fly pattern:

One room intrigued us both. Mr. Lightner collected stained glass windows. Many of these were created by Louis Comfort Tiffany; they are displayed back-lighted in a dark room. Ginny posed beside windows portraying two other beauties:

She photographed me beside this Tiffany window showing St. Augustine, the man, not the city, the names are pronounced differently although I think the city was named for the man—who is shown reading. I’m sure it must be one of my books he’s reading:

Downstairs, a museum staff member played some of the antique music machine which long predate the phonograph. One of the tunes one machine played was “When You And I Were Young, Maggie”.

In the museum gift shop I asked the museum lady what Otto Lightner did for a living that he could afford to buy such a collection of treasures. She said he was a publisher!

That broke me up. I’m a publisher and it was all I could do to afford to buy our admission tickets to the museum!

I suppose there are publishers, and then again there are Publishers.

However, be that as it may, I splurged and bought Ginny an umbrella which replicates Tiffany’s Dragonfly lampshade:

Hot, tired and hungry by now, we walked to the bay front where US Highway A1A crosses the Bridge Of Lions. We stopped for lunch at the A1A Aleworks and Cuban Restaurant; The last time we were in this restaurant, it had been a French bakery.

When we mentioned that to the young lady who served us, a girl I imagine to be in her mid-20s, she was amazed that we’ve been married so long. She misheard us and thought we said we’ve been married for 44 years. To celebrate, our of her own pocket, she bought me a beer called Red Brick Ale. The place brews their own beer and I told her this Red Brick Ale was the best I’ve ever tasted.

So she brought me several small glasses of other beers to sample. Now the last beer I tasted was during half-time of the 2007 Super Bowl so I accused her of trying to get me snockered. The samples included the girl’s own favorite, Porpoise Point, some Honey Mead, and a beer brewed from bananas—ghastly stuff! But the Red Brick Ale tasted heavenly.

And our food also tasted heavenly. I had coconut shrimp with a black bean and rice dish cooked with a touch of jalapeno pepper. One of the best meals I’ve ever eaten anywhere.

And the girl kept marveling that we’ve been in love for 44 years.

After lunch, we crossed the street into the Slave Market park. There Ginny snapped this photo of the building which now houses the Wachovia Bank.

That’s cool because many years ago in a dump I found a piggy-bank shaped like this building, but then the name was the Exchange Bank Of St. Augustine, an institution which lasted till the mid 1950s. I gave that white-metal coin bank to Ginny as a reminder of our honeymoon.

Ginny’s coin bank looks like this:

The shape of that tower reminds us of something related to our honeymoon.

Ah yes I remember now, from our motel room window 40+ years ago, we could see that tower silhouetted against the skyline across the bay; for some reason they were setting off fireworks from the top of the building. St. Augustine is always celebrating some event or another with fireworks.

Here’s that photo a passerby took of Ginny and me sitting in the Slave Market park.

As we sat in the park watching people walk past and remembering the days of our honeymoon, we chuckled over the girl in the restaurant thinking we’ve been married 44 years—we’re not that old!

As we talked there was some disagreement on the matter. I said we’ve been married 41 years; Ginny says we’ve been married 42 years.

I said it’s only been 41 years—but it they’ve been so hard on her that it seems like 42 years.

She said it’s been 42 years—but that I earned a year off for good behavior.

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 @ 2:45 AM

Your comments are welcome: 3 comments

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One Picture Is Worth... Zilch!

Some recent kink in my computer set up refuses to allow me to post pictures.

I’ve written three diary entries which hinge on the graphics that go with them, but I can’t put them on-line so I have to rely on words.

The most important entry involved our youngest daughter’s announcing her engagement. She and Clint plan to marry next Fall or spring. I intended to post some photos of Patricia. But I can’t.

Another entry involved how last weekend Ginny and I revisited some of the places where we honeymooned 40+ years ago. Took lots of photos. Can’t post ‘em.

The third entry I wanted to post involved funny signs. Without the photos, they aren’t funny.

This is one heck of a fix for a writer to be in—no photos. I have to rely on words.

And I’ve got nothing to say.

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 @ 3:40 AM

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Friday, August 14, 2009

In Deep Stuff—A Rant!

At 2:30 Thursday morning I rushed through my initial chores of the day so I could get out to the pool before sunup to watch the Perseid meteor shower. Astronomers predicted that over 100 shooting stars would burn through the earth’s atmosphere each hour.

I floated on an air mattress in the pool watching the sky.

I have a bone to pick with astronomers.

They lie.

Bet they were all snug in warm beds chuckling about that idiot floating around in a pool on an air mattress in Florida freezing his ass off without seeing a single shooting star.

But, I’m a Christian. I forgive them.

To me to forgive means that I will not feed them feet-first into a wood chipper machine.

I mean, how much more Christian can I be than to forgive?

Unfortunately, yesterday afternoon I read the words of a respected Christian author who advocates a “Deeper Christian Life”.

This author punctured my air mattress.

My own Christian life is already so deep I’m drowning in it.

This pool has no ladder.

I’m sinking.

Reading this stuff makes me think I feel I’m hardly a Christian at all, especially when it comes to forgiving others.

The Deeper Author says, “Forgiveness has unbelievable power, but it’s not easy. Superficial forgiveness can deceive us. We can “forgive” to feel superior. I forgive—it’s over and done with, but the pain is still there—I’m just acting. Words can’t end grief and pain. I forgive, but nothing will ever be the same between us.

“But real forgiveness must involve reconciliation and the restoration of relationship.

“In real forgiveness I must recognize we are both in pain. I must stop blaming (Forgive, they know not…) In Isaiah 44, the man with the idol feeds on ashes. Trust the other person even if it means getting hurt again. Value the relationship more than being right, more than grief and hurt.

“When you forgive, you entrust yourself to God, not to the other person…”


Reconciliation. Restoration. Relationship.

I just don’t see it.

My attitude is, “OK. I forgive you. Now go away”.

If I forgive you, then go get on with your life while I get on with mine.

I mean I’ll treat the person I forgive just like I’d treat anyone I see in the grocery store—What relationship? They just happen to be there at the same time I am. I wish them well and mean them no harm. If one of them needs help reaching a can of beans on the top shelf, I’d reach it down for them. I’ll stand to the side and let them get their cart through. If the guy ahead of me at checkout is a couple of dollars short, I’ll hand it to him…But there is no “relationship” with these people.

Nor should there be.

The subject of forgiveness came up again for me earlier this week—not worth going into again, I’ve written about the same thing before, But somebody this week pushed an In-Your-Face forgiveness situation on me.

I replied polite but distant.

I have forgiven them. I did not feed them into the wood chipper. What more can they want. But the situation aggravates me.

The shallow Christian life is all I can handle.

And that life swamps me.

I’m floundering in the kiddy pool of faith.

Reminds me of the old story about the guy who painted his mother’s kitchen for her. He feels he’s done well.

She looks around the finished work and says, “A dutiful son would have lined the shelves with fresh shelf paper”.

He says, “Mama, I guess I’ll never be a dutiful son. Every time I try, you raise the standards”.

The way I see it is that I forgive you—but don’t bother me while I’m running the wood chipper.

(P.S. From Ginny – He really is a nice guy.)

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 @ 3:06 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Secret Identities

When I was a kid, my father got paid on every Friday. He always gave me my allowance of 25 ¢ when he got home. Right after supper I’d run down to the corner drug store to spend it; I’d buy two comic books, 10¢ each, and a fountain coke, 5¢, no sales tax in those days.

Ah yes, I lived the good life.

My favorite comic book Hero was Mighty Mouse!

But I also read Tales From The Crypt, Captain America, Superman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Captain America, Little Lulu…

Alas, my story is the same one told by every man growing up in America—When I went off to college, my mother…

I had that first edition comic that now sells on E-e-bay for $100,000!

Yes, every guy tells that same tale.

But we guys also stoically agree with St. Paul, who said “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things”.

Paul only said that because of sour grapes. His mother has a lot to answer for. Just think what one of St. Paul’s comics would sell for on e-bay!

The reason I got to thinking about this subject is that the Lord answered an odd prayer of mine.

You see, while I stagnate between writing one book and another, I devote my time to transcribing my friend Barbara White’s Prayer Diaries.

Barbara retired after 15 years service as religion editor of the Florida Times-Union. Among other duties she wrote a column, Along The Way. Her work won numerous awards and helped thousands of people in their spiritual quests.

My posting on August 20, 2007 “Shuffling Paper” tells how I turned a flowered shopping bag full of Barbara’s newspaper clippings into a four-book series, aptly named Along The Way, available at www.bluefishbooks.info .

About that same time, Barbara entrusted me with another bag, a canvas bag filled with her hand-written prayer diaries. Powerful stuff. I think her writings are destined to become spiritual classics; they have that potential.

Off and on for months, I’ve spent spare time transcribing these diaries.

In her duties as religion editor, Barbara covered every variety of religious event, happening, scandal, and activity. Pastors, rabbis, priests, bishops, singers, televangelists, gurus, and every sort of religious personality sought her attention. She treated people from each faith, denomination, and persuasion with respect, courtesy, honesty and fairness—while maintaining her own dedication to Christ.

Because of this loving attitude, religious leaders of all sorts became her friends and in crisis they sought out her council and input. So did non-professional Christians, Jews, agnostics, and just plain folks.

All sorts came to her for comfort, council, and hope in hurt.

My problem is that when she prayed for them, she often noted her prayers and concerns for them in her private diaries.

Sometimes just by their initials.

But sometimes by name.

How am I to handle voicing their problems which may help modern readers who go through the same sort of life issues—without breaking confidence?

I have no intention of betraying private things in publication of Barbara’s prayer diaries. Yet I want to maintain my own integrity in honestly transcribing these diaries.

On one hand, I think, This stuff happened 25 years ago; Barbara herself forgot she ever wrote about it, who’s around to remember that incident?

On the hand, some things were revealed in trust. That’s sacred.

Off and on the past couple of days I’ve prayed about how to handle this problem.

I’m up to May, 1984, in my transcribing—I’ve hit a place where the young married pastor of one congregation is being eagerly tempted about leaving his wife and taking up an affair with his secretary.

As I prayed this morning, the image of Mighty Mouse sprang into my mind.

I hardly ever think of Mighty Mouse when I pray.

Then it came to me…

Secret identities!

Virtually all comic book characters had a secret identity.

So when you read in Barbara White’s Pray Diary (if I ever get it published) about the triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica. Or where Joker embezzled church funds, or where Scrooge McDuck tried to take over the church—Well, that’s how I’m disguising the real names of people who I feel need a secret identity.

Some of the life situations religious professionals get into! Well, they remind me of Tales From The Crypt.

But, thank God, such goings on only take up a few pages in the many volumes of Barbara’s diary.

Mostly her prayer diaries served to remind her of God’s faithfulness and glory in daily life. Thus most pages of Barbara’s diaries are taken up with private meditation.

For instance, Here is the day in the diary I was working on yesterday, it’s a section from Barbara’s Diary on May 27, 1984:

Being faithful is being strong in a broken world.

The breaking of big things:

Jesus slept through the storm in a floundering boat.

Does God sleep in my storm?

The disciples were following Him too! But they forgot two things:

(1.) They forgot His word. God always has a word. Jesus said they were going to the other side. Every word He says is to be trusted…

(2.) They forgot to focus on Jesus. We’ve got Jesus with us. He can handle it.

Jesus said, “Why are you afraid”? He wants us to look at the storm—but not the one we are looking at—the storm in our hearts.

Why afraid?

I used to be in control of things, now I’m not in control. I don’t know what to do and, Lord, I don’t find You very helpful in my boat at the moment.

It’s like playing musical chairs—faith doesn’t get here first. It may be anger or jealousy, or whatever. God wants me to see what gets there first in my heart.

Certain wonderful things can only be born in us through suffering. This is the reason Jesus slept so long. We have to see what needs to be crucified.

Jesus’ Second Question—Where is your faith?

We don’t ask that; we ask, “Why is this happening to me”?

So we start looking and we find our faith is in something else—boats, self, etc. It’s important for me to see how small my faith is.

The prolongation of pressure is a critical factor in the way God deals with us.

Storms are going to hit us. What are we going to turn to? Jesus said, “Peace. Be still”

And guess what—They got to the other side.

Oh, by the way, I don’t know yet if Barbara ever mentions me or Ginny in her prayer diaries, but if you read about Mighty Mouse in trouble… Please don’t reveal my secret identity.

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 @ 4:15 AM

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Romantic Weekend Torpedoed

Even after 40+ years of marriage I can still make Ginny squeal.

Unfortunately, when I kiss her nowadays the way I do that is by cupping my palms over her ears so the feedback shriek of her hearing aids makes her…

Well, you get the idea.

However, in my own mind, I’m still one of the World’s Greatest Lovers.

For instance, in a conversation over coffee a couple of weeks ago, I asked Ginny to tell me about some times in her life when she has felt happiest (that’s a good question to ask). She listed six or eight things in her life which brought her particular joy.

Oddly enough, only one or two involved me in any way; but I latched onto one thing she said and I thought, Hey! I can re-create that.

So I began secretly plotting to take her for a romantic getaway weekend next Friday. I wanted this to come as a surprise to her, so I hid my planning under various subterfuges. On the target Friday I intended to pretend to drive her to work, but instead I’d sweep her off to a luxury resort for a long weekend of lust, love and joy.

I intended to call her boss and set up days off for Ginny without her knowing about it beforehand. And to make arrangements with a pet lover to watch Fancy while we were away. And to have our mail picked up.

I checked to see our prescriptions were up to date. I compared resort prices on line to make advanced reservations…

The package I intended included a dozen roses for her, champaign, king-sized bed, adult videos available, a box of chocolates, a moonlight carriage ride, a balcony overlooking the water, breakfast in bed, candle light dinners…

I envisioned the kind of resort hotel James Bond would check into—if 007 were on our budget.

I intended to secretly pack Ginny’s suitcase with lacy, frilly negligees, and to pack her comfortable walking shoes for strolling through the historic district.

For weeks I have plotted and planed and schemed to bring about all my intentions.

Well, Hell’s paved…

Yesterday the wheels came off.

Snag after snag turned up suddenly. Obstacle after obstacle arose. I could not figure anyway to overcome scheduling conflicts, reservation cancellations, work duties, finances, bridge closings, construction, and a host of other problems. The whole world conspired to keep me from our romantic weekend!

Discouraged, I broke down and told Ginny about my intentions so she could set her sharp mind to solving the problems involved. Heads together we huddled over the computer trying this ploy and that.

We grew frustrated and finally gave up.

We just can’t make it happen.

Not next weekend, but in November, God willing, we’ll have our romantic weekend—at a cabin in the woods; our reservations are already confirmed. It won’t come as a surprise to Ginny, but between now and then we’ll have the joy of anticipating.

I’ll wait.

As the Scripture says, “The best plans of mice and men to get laid often go astray”.

Actually, that quote is not really in the pages of Scripture—but it would be if I wrote the Bible!

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 @ 4:20 AM

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Christmas Eve—Part Two

Back on August 3rd, I wrote about how our daughter Eve borrowed a few of Ginny’s Santas for a Christmas In August library program.

Here is a copy of an e-mail that Eve sent me this morning:

Here are the pictures of the various Santas including the display I made. We even played them all at the same time as I told them to listen to them and multiply it by 20 : ) and that would like Christmas at my house. The kids had a blast and every time I would turn around to explain a craft or help a kid, I would hear Christmas tunes going off behind me.

We had a massive turn out of about 30+ people. Everyone got school supplies and toys to take home and we made paper bag stockings and edible Christmas trees.

I will get the Santas back to you soon... probably before Christmas : )..maybe.
Thank you for blogging about me. It always make me feel good to know you are proud of me. I am proud of you too. Everytime I had someone check out a Jacksonville history book, I get to share with them about your books and how they are written by this wonderful author I know. I wish just once you could see you like I do. You are a great father with an amazing heart. Mark always tells me how lucky I am to have such loving and supportive parents.

I love you, Daddy.

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 @ 5:49 AM

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Pain, Suffering, Problems, Troubles, Aggravations, and Tribulations

I forgot my brother’s birthday.

Yesterday when I abruptly realized that I’d forgotten, I called David to apologize, and I asked, “How did you spend your birthday”?

“Doing nothing but sitting by the phone waiting for my brother to call,” he said.

He also spent an inordinate amount of time in a surgeon’s office getting 20+ shots, having a cancer cut off, and enduring a skin graph to patch where the cancer had been removed.

Sounds painful.

No fun at all.

Yesterday also, our friend Barbara White treated Ginny and me to lunch at a restaurant in downtown Yukon, Florida. Yes, there is such a place and ….er, make that the restaurant in Yukon, there isn’t any other.

We’ve been meeting with Barbara for lunches or breakfasts regularly for more years than I can remember.

This time we met in Yukon because the tiny town lies about half way between Barbara’s house and ours. Barbara felt up to driving halfway; she goes in for another round of chemotherapy Monday so this was the last day of her “good” week between treatments.

The three of us talked about pain.

Barbara’s been reading the book of Job for her devotions. And she reads articles and thinks a lot about finding meaning in her pain.

She said that pain does not make us good. Nor does it make us worse. “I am what I’ve always been,” she said, “The difference now is that I’m what I’ve always been—with cancer”.

Of course, like any of us who has ever suffered any pain or problem—even having a flat tire—she asks, “Why me”. She says that she’s asked that same question about her many blessings as well as about her pain. She concludes that it’s not a case of her deserving either pain or blessing. The just shall live by faith—not by racked up merit or demerit points.

Pain, trouble, problems—it’s all just part of living in a fallen world. As sure as smoke drifts upward, so man born of woman is few of days and full of trouble.

She observed that God does not remove life’s curses, He redeems them; it’s His trademark to lower Himself to lift us up. She mentioned a Stephen King tale about a prisoner who escaped to freedom by crawling through a sewer.

Barbara said that one of the most difficult things about suffering is the feeling that you’ve been forgotten (like when your brother forgets your birthday), or that while you get adequate physical care, you still feel neglected, put aside on the shelf, forgotten.

She finds comfort knowing that our God never forgets; He remembers even the most obscure and forgettable among His children. Every hair on your head is numbered—which in Barbara’s case is not as hard to do as it once was.

The trouble with going to lunch with Barbara and Ginny is that the two women gang up and shut me out. Why, when I tried to tell them the joke about the cat and the soccer team, they shouted me down and wouldn’t even let me get to the punch line.

That hurt.

Ginny told about an e-mail she’d received from our daughter Jennifer:

It seems a pastor visited a terminal patient to talk over her funeral arrangements, which hymns she’d like at her service, which Scriptures to read. And the woman requested that she be buried with a table fork in her hand and she explained her reason for the request.

During the viewing at the funeral parlor everyone noticed the fork in the hand of the body and wondered about it.

In his message the pastor told how the woman had grown up in her grandmother’s house and at the end of family dinners Grandmother would clear plates from the table saying, “Keep your fork. Something good’s coming”. Then she’d bring out fabulous deserts—pecan pie, chocolate cake, Peach cobbler.

To keep your fork meant you anticipated something wonderful ahead.

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him”.

Resurrection—the historical resurrection of Christ, the eventual resurrection of us—that’s what it’s all about. We are all temps down here.

As Job said:

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin, worms destroy this body,
yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself,
and mine eyes shall behold,
and not another;
though my reins be consumed within me.

Yes, Jesus rose.

We too shall rise from our graves eventually.

But God cares when we hurt right here, right now..

And the Scripture says, “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds”.

Personally, I don’t know much about pain. In fact, last week helping Donald spread tar on the roof, I scraped my knee. When Ginny brought out the first aid kit to apply ointment on my wound, the tube bore the use-by date of 1994! Obviously, I have not suffered a great deal in the way of wounds.

Seems odd to me that God has this double standard about pain:

On one hand, when we encounter pain in others, we are to do all we can to alleviate it; remember the Good Samaritan binding the victim’s wounds?

Reminds me of the cartoon where this guy is praying, “God, why do You allow so much pain and suffering and misery to go on in the world”?

And God answers, “Funny, I was about to ask you that same question”.

Then, on the other hand when we suffer ourselves, the Scripture says, “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”.

Help others; endure yourself.

In other words, at some points in my life I am to help folks who are objects of charity; at other points in my life, I am to be an object of charity for others to help.

I’d rather do than be!

But God may have other ideas. maybe I ought to keep my fork.

I have no satisfactory answer to why God allows pain—especially the pain of the innocent, or of sinless animals, or of babies, or why good people suffer.

I just don’t know.

My own ointment hasn’t been needed since 1994.

I thank God that I don’t hurt anywhere at the moment.

But there is that man born of woman thing…

As my friend Wes said, “When tribulation comes, sometimes all you can do is stand there and tribulate”.

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 @ 8:55 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Saturday, August 08, 2009

On Being A Barbwire Christian

Looks like after writing or editing twenty-something books, I should have known it was coming.

But I didn’t.

I expected to go bouncy bouncy from finishing Short’s 1854 Diary project right into a new writing project. I’d even made a list of five likely title to work on. But what I’d forgotten is that every time I finish a book and move the notes and final draft into my DONE file, a fit of dark black depression falls on me.

Oh, there’s that first giddy feeling of elation when I hold “my book” in my hands and gloat over having produced it. That lasts from 20 minutes to two hours—then comes the let down.

I look at the work of my hands and say, “What a piece of crap”. I see mistakes that spoil the whole work. I think that this garbage isn’t going to sell any better than the last book I wrote. I realize that I’ve wasted time on a useless project—Again!

Everything sours on me. I feel I’ve been a loser all my life. My own one-line diary entries say, “Another wasted day in a wasted life”. Depression paralyzes me. I say, “It doesn’t matter” about everything—shaving, mowing the lawn, reading—why bother?

It’s all I can do to look at pictures of naked ladies on the internet. And even that feels useless and not worth the trouble of clicking on another nipple.

But should a Christian feel so low?

Probably not.

But that’s the way I am.

And shouldn’t a Christian hide such feelings out of a sense of “testimony” because we’re supposed to be joyous people?

But the big let-down is a common human experience; we all know the backlash after psyching ourselves up for finals and the end of semester comes and we crash. And after even joyous experiences, say preparing for a wedding, or sad experiences, making funeral arrangements, there comes a letdown, a period of enervation, an overwhelming weariness—these feelings are real.

And they are our common lot.

This is a place where raw dogged faith kicks in.

I really do feel lower than whale shit, but I still believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.

My lord.

He is what He is, regardless of what I feel or experience.

He is true whether I believe that truth at the moment or not.

And, yes, I feel I should write about these things to be honest.

I want the Kid in the Attic and anyone else who might read my diary to know the reality of Christian experience as it works our in the life of one morose, grumpy, dirty old man—me. That way they’ll know that the Christian faith is real. Jesus doesn’t just save winners.

Ginny and I were talking about my depression the other night and I expressed my faith that in Heaven I will be given a cheap seat in the nosebleed section with a ticket stamped Saved-But-Useless…

She said I’m wrong, that the Lord will run to meet me with arms wide open to hug me home.

She would say that.

She likes me.

I’ll show how my thoughts about the coils of barbwire entanglements fit in just a moment.

In some research the other day, Ginny encountered a site I’d never run across before, Dr. Donald J. Mabry’s Historical Text Archive at http://historicaltextarchive.com/books.php?op=viewbook&bookid=70&cid=2 .

Dr. Mabry, Professor Emeritus of history at Mississippi State University, pioneered in introducing historians to the use of the Internet for professional purposes. His Historical Text Archive, the first Internet-based file storage and retrieval site for historians, has won over sixty Awards. The Archive had published 70 books and over 687 articles in electronic form. It has eleven million unique visitors a year.

In a well-researched, scholarly E-Book entitled World’s Finest Beach, Dr. Mabry tells the fascinating history of northeast Florida beach communities.

In investigating Dr. Marby’s footnotes Ginny found that he cites such eminent Florida history authorities as Bill Foley, T. Frederick Davis, and James R. Ward.

Among these names in the footnotes, she found three references to articles I wrote.

What a shock!

These guys are really good. They are authorities. They qualify as legitimate historians. I’m not an authority on anything; I’m just a guy with an interest in the past of my hometown. Yet, there I appear in three different footnotes.

Yes, I am a footnote.

Here comes the barbwire thought:

While I feel that my writing and my life per se is useless, somebody got a footnote out of it.

Back in the 1950s I met a soldier just returned from the Korean War. He’d been a machine gunner over there as United States troops fought their way up the peninsula, then the Communist Chinese army poured over the border in hordes to push our boys back .

The soldier told me that our guys set out massive entanglements of barbwire to channel rushing Communist fighters into firing lanes covered by machine guns. He said some of the enemy soldiers were armed with nothing but sharpened bamboo spears as they charged the machineguns.

To break through the barbwire entanglement and make a way through for the soldiers behind them, the first waves of Communist soldiers would run forward and throw themselves on the barbwire.

The combined weight of thousands of them eventually flattened the wire.

By stepping on their bodies, the Communist troops following could charge the machine guns without being entangled in the barbwire. The first wave of men’s function in the scheme of things was to keep others from getting entangled in the barbwire.

These barbwire soldiers were nonentities.

Bodies for other soldiers to step on.



I find the example of these men comforting.

Ginny read over this just before I posted it online to Blogger and she began singing.

She sang that tune from the musical Annie.

You know the one—The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow!

I live with an interesting woman.

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 @ 8:15 AM

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Atop Casa La Brea

Local forecasters predicted that Wednesday’s temperature here in Jacksonville, Florida, would top 100 degrees. So where did I spend that sunny morning? Crawling around on my hands and knees atop my son’s house helping him tar a roof leak.

Tuesday I’d worried about what my next writing project should be. But Wednesday when I called Donald just to ask about a computer problem (he’s a computer network administrator) he told me about his leaky roof and I volunteered to help him spread tar. I’m sure that’s how Stephen King spends his time between writing one book and another.

The scorching heat on the housetop made our tools almost too hot to touch! And tar gets sticky; there’s a reason they tarred and feathered criminals back in the good old days.

But Donald and I enjoyed many a laugh up there doing our repair job.

For instance, when Donald asked me why I pressed an oak leaf into the hot tar, I told him that I was creating a future fossil for Casa La Brea. If we had a mastodon handy, we could have imbedded him in the roof too. But, since Donald and Helen only have ten or twelve cats, I offered to create a unique fossil on their housetop. He wouldn’t let me have even one spare kitty.

Even though we wore kneepads, the rough grains of asphalt shingles scraped and stung us as we joked about the words of Jesus in Luke 17—you know the place, “When the Son of man is revealed, in that day, he which shall be upon the housetop…one shall be taken, and the other left”.

When the Lord comes again, both Donald and I will be left on the rooftop—because we’ll be stuck up there in tar!

Hey, it sounded funny while we were up there troweling tar into cracks between shingles.

Finishing the messy job, we sat in the shade sipping ice tea and talking about Donald’s inclination to become a minister; he plans to enter seminary later this month.

He also said that he and Helen have tentative plans so that if Ginny and I (or Helen’s parents) get too old and feeble to take care of ourselves, the kids plan to partition the back of their home to make an apartment for us decrepit old folks

Lovely thought but it will be a cold day… er, on the roof, before I’d want to live with any of our children. Love ‘em, yes. Live with ‘em, It’ll be a cold day!

Besides, their daughter Maggie enters college toward the end of the month and it looks as though she’ll live at home and commute for a while yet instead of moving to the dorm. She and her boyfriend had checked out our activities on the roof before they took off to an exercise class. Wow! She is gorgeous! I mean fashion model beautiful.

Donald drove me home to pick up some theology books I’d saved for him, and we went for a swim to cool off.

As Donald left my house for his, he said it was his turn to cook for a supper at his church; he planed to make meatballs in a special sauce. To make the meatballs, I suppose you take meat and squish it into balls; but for his special sauce, Donald heats barbeque sauce and melts in grape jelly to give the sauce sweetness, zest and tang.

His meatballs are a favorite at church suppers.

Incidentally, just yesterday Donald and Helen opened a brand new website called Cowart Cooking Wiki. It’s at http://www.whenwilltheburningstop.com/index.php?title=Main_Page . Please check it out, sign on, and add your own favorite receipts.

But before Donald left, I proudly showed him a copy of William Short’s 1854 Diary—the book that I just published yesterday—See my online book catalog at www.bluefishbooks.info.

As my son compared my transcript with the original autograph of the 155-year-old diary, his sharp eyes spotted two things that had escaped my notice:

First, Donald spotted some numbers faintly written inside the cover. I’d seen them there but discounted them as unimportant. “Dad, he was trying to solve an algebraic equation here,” Donald said, “And he was going about it wrong”. Donald was a physics major in college and solves (or is the right word proves?) equations with ease.

I knew that in 1854 William Short was a professor of language and mathematics, but I had not recognized the numbers he’d written inside the cover of his diary were an equation.

Then, on examining the original diary’s back cover, Donald noticed that the layers of leather in the binding had separated sometime in the distant past, probably due to the diary getting wet in Short’s pocket. By tilting the little book to catch the light at just the right angle, Donald saw a distinct impression where Short had hidden several coins inside the cover slot created by that separation. The coins had been there so long they embossed their imprint on the leather.

But alas, somebody somewhere sometime in the distant past had removed those ancient coins.

I’ll bet they were gold coins Short had tucked away in this secret compartment…

Long gone before I ever got hold of the diary.

Nothing left but a faint impression of the coins.

Story of my life…

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 @ 5:28 AM

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Rejoice! William Short Is Published And Put To Bed

Yesterday our postman delivered my two sample copies of William F. Short’s 1854 Diary, a book Ginny and I transcribed and edited together. It really proved a challenge for us. The saga of our struggles to produce this book are recorded in my July 2nd posting and following.

The cover of the published book, pictured here, reproduces the old leather cover of the manuscript diary—enlarged many times. It’s now available at www.bluefishbooks.info .

I urged Ginny to carry her copy in to work with her to show off to her co-workers, but she seems reluctant to—doesn’t want her name associated with mine in her office, I suppose. But I’m proud of the work we did on this. I could not have published this one without her help.

I added my own copy to my vanity shelf.

And there it sits.

Recently I have seen myself as a preservationist. This tattered old diary, record of a man’s life and loves from 150 years ago, would have moldered in a dust bin, had I not rescued it and published it.

Now, thanks to my efforts, it can molder on a much wider scale.

Who reads this stuff anyhow?

However, finally putting Short to bed means I have to move on to the next project—whatever that is. Again, I face the dilemma of deciding what to do next.

The space between finishing one book and starting another pains me.

I despair.

The rush of getting one book finished, the thrill, the sense of accomplishment, dims when I contemplate what to do next.

Of course, the only question for a Christian is, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do”?

Nothing else matters.

But I find the process of finding the will of God and answering that question unsettles me. I make lists of book ideas, I wallow in indecision. I weigh factors. I consider marketability. I ponder whether or not readers will be helped. I pray and worry and question and reconsider and worry…

And the time factor overshadows all.

I’ve just turned 70. I’m unlikely to have time to finish writing about all the ideas on my lists. And I wonder if I haven’t run my course. Do I have anything useful or uplifting to say.

And considering the financial success of the twenty or so books I’ve already written or edited, is it time now to recognize my failure, admit defeat, and stop pissing against the wind?

Be all that as it may, once again I enter the doldrums of writing, adrift between one project and the next….

Now, look what I’ve done. I started writing this to celebrate the publication of my latest book and I’ve turned it into a pity party for John Cowart! Woe is me! Woe is me!

Ginny says that were I to win the Lotto jackpot, I’ve view it as a problem.

Alright already. I’ve published William F. Short’s 1854 Diary. Today it goes on sale. Buyers line up on the right. No shoving. There are plenty of copies for everybody.

Today, poor J.K. Rowling frets and weeps and wrings her hands knowing that my book will bump that Harry Potter wimp of hers off the best seller list. Don’t cry, Joanne, maybe someday 150 years from now some guy will find an old copy of your book in a dustbin and publish it for his generation—like I did with William Short’s Diary.

See there, I can too rejoice over my latest publishing triumph.

I’m rejoicing, damnit, I’m rejoicing.

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 @ 6:45 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Christmas Eve

Our daughter Eve, a librarian, has won the Mayor’s Rave Review Award “for showing initiative, doing more than expected, focusing on quality, excellence, and customer satisfaction”.

Of Jacksonville’s 10,465 city employees, only a handful have earned this honor.

Mayor John Peyton will present Eve the award she earned at a ceremony at City Hall later in the month.

Meanwhile, Eve is preparing a Christmas In August program for the kids and teens who come to her branch library. Eve’s been getting her Christmas program ready for weeks now. She’s baking cookies and wrapping presents for all the kids who come to her library. (I’m pretty sure she pays for all these extras out of her own pocket). And, a few days ago she called asking Ginny about borrowing musical Santa Claus toys for a display.

Alas, Ginny and I forgot all about it. Christmas In August is not high on our list of things to think about (Ginny stubbed her toe on a chair leg over the weekend and I’ve focused on that over the weekend because with her being a diabetic that could prove serious).

Eve showed up at the door yesterday to pick up Santas for her display. So I began pulling boxes of Christmas decorations out of storage.

About 40 years ago, someone gave Ginny a battery-operated, musical, mechanical Santa that waved its arms ringing a bell. The present delighted her, so every year since the rest of the family and I have often given her additional battery-operated musical Santas.

She owns Santas that climb ladders, Santas that walk, Santas that ski, Santas that fly, Santas that sing calypso music, Elvis in a Santa suit, Santas that drive racecars, that catch fish, that beat drums—and one that drops his pants to moon the world.

A couple of years back, being inundated with musical Santa dolls, Ginny asked for a moratorium on anymore gifts of Santa dolls—she has scores of the things.

In fact, before it became too much of a burden, each year we used to have a Christmas party featuring the annual Running Of The Santas in which she would set every one of the things to playing at the same time!

We spent a fortune on batteries for this spectacle.

Anyhow, yesterday Eve borrowed eight or ten of Ginny’s Santas to show the kids at her library; she says she will take photos to e-mail back to me later this week.

On the down side, at the same time Eve is celebrating and showing initiative and going beyond the call of duty so the Mayor is recognizing her outstanding efforts in community service—at this same time because of the city’s budget crunch, they propose shutting down the library she works at, or at least cutting the hours it is open to only 16 hours a week.

Merry Christmas, Eve.

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 @ 5:56 AM

Your comments are welcome: 4 comments