Today In Former Years

This section of my website traces a day, or related set of days, from my diary over a span of years. Each change to a different year is marked by a yellow highlight. -- jwc

Excerpts From John Cowart’s Journals:

March 20, 1982 to 2003


John W. Cowart

Friday,  March 19, 1982

              Another day shot to hell fooling with that car!

              Changed a flat tire first thing. Garage refuses to work on it until I install a starter myself. Therefore, I spent the morning chasing down a starter I can afford -- $20 plus three old starters for trade.

              Borrowed R***’s truck to take them over while Ginny bought groceries.

              Returned truck. Walked to garage, called Mama…. Took a 40 minute nap, the highpoint of this day.

              Several rejected manuscripts in the mail: Miami Herald, The Vine, etc.

Took bus to the starter shop, bought & traded for a rebuilt one. Home on bus just in time for Cub Scout meeting.

Cubs gathered at the community center & we made kites. Many broken sticks, punctured wings & tangled strings. Eleven kids today.

Home after dark & repaired Donald’s kite (again!) then crawled under the car & put the starter on & tested the solenoid.

Car still won’t even grunt.

Ward – of course – was there drunk to watch and tell me how much better & cheaper it would be if I let him fix it.

I wonder if Jesus would have been a Christian if He’d had an old car to fix and a drunk to kibitz.

Obviously my spiritual life is in a yucky state; I mechanically go thru morning devotions, i.e. reading. I mull over the day’s duties instead of pray. & I’m apprehensive that God is planning to shove me further down in poverty; snatch my little college-student job, which I relish, away from me; and take Ginny. How’s that for trust.

I expect all of the above to happen but still, as Job says, “Though He slay me; yet will I trust Him” but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Saturday, March 20, 1982

              8 hours at the Times-Union. An extremely slow day. Few phone calls, little mail. Nothing happened.

              Ginny took Eve out to fly her kite & Eve was the envy of the park!

              Mitch came over just as I got home. We tried to jump start the car from his. Nothing happened. He drove Donald and me over to Gateway shopping center and Donald bought two model boats with the money he earned from raking yards. He assembled them both tonight and did a good job too.

              Jennifer had Dana over to spend the night & they worked making kites, doing their hair & talking Girl Scout stuff…

Saturday, March 19, 1983

              Worked 12 ½ hours at the newspaper today. Must be Spring: everybody in Jacksonville seems to have shot or cut each other today.

              This morning J****,  a young woman who sometimes works with the photographers, came in and asked me to make a sign for her to carry in the March Of Dimes Walk-A-Thon today. The company provided each of the walkers with tee-shirts with the T-U logo & a March Of Dimes slogan. I used this design for the sign. Our company’s words are sure to be read – not on my sign but on her tee-shirt:

              Enormous Tits!

              I’m impressed.

Sunday, March 20, 1983

              Very heavy day – ten ½ hours at T-U. No reporter or photographer on duty – Sheriff called a news conference: political stuff which happened to coincide with a drug bust.

              Did state obits & two news story obits: T***. & M***.

              In M***’s file were five articles: one dealing with his being appointed to (high state office) by President Eisenhower in 1959; the other four were about various corruptions he had been charged with. I wrote a  brief piece on what a nice guy he was. But B*** (an assistant city editor) killed most of it saying, “He was a Mormon so everybody will know he did Mormon stuff”.

              There was a great program on tv tonight, Special Bulletin, a movie made up like the news coverage of a terrorist attack on Charlestown, S.C., with a nuclear bomb. Very realistic. Powerful. Makes me question about the end of my book manuscript, Rape of St. Michael & All The Holy Angel’s

Friday, March 20, 1992:

One of the best days of my LIFE!!!

Got off work early and came home to Ginny. We got the girls off to school and went to bed together. …

I awoke with a thousand bees stinging my arm: Ginny had fallen asleep across me and cut off all circulation. I woke in intense pain -- I loved it! I shook her awake … and she opened her eyes adoring me.

We were starving and drove around to Famous Amos for an omelet. We talked about our morning… and how much we enjoyed it…. Ginny said. "Here after 25 years of marriage, I still feel like a newly-wed."

Oh how I love her!

Ginny likes me. What a wonder this is to me after being rejected, scorned, abused and feeling shitty all my life.

Surely I would have killed myself or done worse if I had not met Ginny. I marvel at her love and care for me.

Then she dashed off to her classes and I hooked up both computers at my desk and spent hours revising the prayer book manuscript. Hardly ever have I enjoyed working in my office more -- gorgeous day with birds singing outside my window, happy old music on the radio, work going smoothly as I revised the prayer book. Happy, happy work.

Then Ginny returned from class.

As she greeted me with a lingering kiss, she kept her hands behind her back. Then with a flourish and a smile, she presented me with a handful of roses! "This is to say how happy I am that I'm married to you," she said.

Never have I felt happier or prouder or more in love.

Then: She settled in at her desk to study for her exam tomorrow and I continued working at my desk on the prayer book.

We did not even speak to eachother for four hours but we were intensely intimately together. Just before the girls arrived home from school, we broke for a smoke and chat.

We all took a nap then went to supper at Marco Polo where the girls were exposed to that style of cooking and we all came home to watch a video of "Around the World in 80 Days".

Great fun and companionship.

Gin and I went to bed and …snuggled together into a warm, dreamless sleep.


March 23, 1993

Dear Jack & Alva,

Thank you very much for the $100 you sent Ginny! It was a great help to us. She will get her diploma early in May after five years of struggle and we've been working for that goal day and night. She often spends from 9 in the morning till 10:30 at night at the university... but finally she's approaching graduation, after which we'll both probably collapse!

We did survive the Storm Of The Century -- barely. Huge trees fell on two houses in the block south of us. A woman was killed on Lem Turner Road, a block to the east of us. And tornadoes destroyed a whole neighborhood about a mile north of us. But the only damage we suffered was when the stupid cat panicked and tore up the screen door trying to get inside the house.

Electricity was off most of Saturday so we read stories to the girls by candlelight. Winds gusts here were clocked at 100 miles per hour and the temperature dropped almost 60 degrees overnight but we kept warm by burning tree limbs in the fireplace as fast as they fell in our yard.

During the storm, Donald was at the university conducting some experiment with lasers and gases at near zero degrees. He'd been running the experiment for a week to lower the test temperatures and when the power went off, there was danger of an explosion but he kept the thing cool by adding more liquid hydrogen. The roof blew off the gym next door and several trees fell around the lab, but your mad scientist grandson loved it!

The other night at 1 a.m., after a moon viewing party when the moon was closest to earth since God knows when, Donald showed up pounding on our door waking everyone in the house; he'd brought home five or six hungry physics and engineering students because all the restaurants were closed and all God-fearing decent folks in bed so he brought this gang to our house and we build a fire in the fireplace and they roasted marshmallows and went through the frig like driver ants.

Eve had a great disappointment last week: She had won a college  scholarship from the Retired Educators Association. They came to her high school to notify her, took photographs and made an appointment for her to attend their meetings --- then last Friday she got a letter from them saying that they'd run short of funds and were withdrawing their offer. She was heartbroken.

The head of the physics department at JU wants Eve to attend there and major in physics; she's scored higher on the college tests in physics than Donald did! but she does NOT want to go to the same college as him! She wants to make her own way without his shadow; I can't blame her.

Patricia has failed a number of algebra tests recently and it looks as though she may have to attend summer school. She wants to transfer out of the academic program and enter the local art magnet school. We plan to help her do that. But even so she has to pass the basic math stuff. I can't help her a bit because I don't have the vaguest idea of what she's supposed to do with the problems. Eve coaches her and I listen but I can't even follow what they are talking about.

In January and February we were kept off balance by a publisher from Chicago, (senior acquisitions editor of …, one of world's largest religious publisher)  who created a furry about some work of mine he liked. He called me a dozen or so times and came down to Florida to meet with me and threw about figures between $15,000 and $50,000 for a book contract and made arrangements with an artist to illustrate the book. He compared my work with Watership Down, Pilgrims Progress, Beauty & The Beast, Animal Farm, King Kong, and Kurt Vonnegut's work  -- And then his boss read my manuscript and denounced it as utter trash.

So, for all the stir and hope and trouble and work, we ended up with nothing... However, my agent has the manuscript out in the hands of another publisher already so maybe something good will come of it someday eventually. This was just another case of close but no cigar.

Dear Lord, please don't let any of my children grow up to be addicts or editors!

Yesterday, I finished the proof sheets on the prayer book. According to the IVP editor it should be out next month, or April, or last month, or in June... Lord, if this thing ever finally gets completely done, I promise I'll never pray again!

My wood-burning computer broke down two weeks ago and this morning I dismantled it and used a bent pipe-cleaner and my ship modeling tools to replace a little black round thing that goes around sometimes and does something to make a little red light shine once in a while. And now it all works again. And the sparks didn't burn my desk hardly at all. I feel so proud of me! I wonder if NASA needs a hand with their computers? I'm available.

Anyhow, that's all the news from here in Somalia South. Keep praying for us…. Love, John

Sunday, March  20, 1994:

Woke at 5 a.m. with two key ideas for my work plan in mind: (1.) to make my own schedule just as though Ginny were already employed; this saves having to make a second schedule after she starts to work and it will free her from much drudgery housework so she can devote herself more toward finding that job. (2.) to treat my book chapters as assignments just as I did the various magazine articles I used to write. Since I never missed a deadline with those articles, if I handle the book chapters the same way, I'm likely to get them done more efficiently than when I set a single deadline to be reached at the end of twenty or thirty chapters!

I came out to the office and immediately put these two ideas into effect in my work plan, dividing the 22 chapters of the Reincarnationists into assignments each with specific deadline dates.

My morning devotions in the old Book of Common Prayer included readings from Psalm 130 & 104. I especially like 103:5 wherein God satisfies our mouths with good things "making thee young and lusty as an eagle"! Being lusty is important to me so this rendering of the verse delighted me.

I also was touched by 104:24-31. this may be a section to include in a …rewrite:

O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches. So is the great and wide sea also; wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts... These wait all upon thee, that thou mayest give meat in due season.


About 7 a.m. M*** called saying he will take us all to church. So I woke Ginny, Donald, Eve, and Patricia and we all dressed and went to church.

The service included the Great Litany, which I love!

Once back home Jennifer joined us for the afternoon and for the first time in ages, all six of my family gathered around the table for a roast (the last food in the house at the moment) and joked and napped in this chair or that one --  and enjoyed each other's company.

I called Barbara and she says she will take Ginny to the store and buy groceries for us on Tuesday.

Jennifer drove Eve and Donald, who forgot his shave gear, back to college in the evening. David came over and visited Pat for a while in the evening also.


Saturday, March 20, 1999:

Ginny & I devoted this day to cleaning the yard, removing plants from the cold frame, repotting plants, moving plants, cleaning out the huge hollow log at the corner and planting it full of impatiens, and -- cleaning the pool. This last project was forced upon us because the stagnant water is beginning to smell and breed mosquito larvae. The water is black with algae. I have neglected cleaning it too much this winter.

This afternoon we logged on to the web site chat room where J****'s missive had directed us. It turns out that he is not getting married or even engaged to S****; they were having a ceremony called handfastening. Of the five people entered in this chat room, three directly identified themselves as wicca, a new age religion of witchcraft. Supposedly wicca involves good witches, white witches, as opposed to bad witches, black witches -- as though worshiping something less than God has a decent side.

Gin & I stayed in contact via computer for about 30 minutes and when the people involved continued to be evasive as to what their ceremony was all about, I simply messaged them:

"Kids, we are signing off now. Whatever you are doing, may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit help you to find joy".

Ginny and I resumed our yard work for pleasure. J***'s involvement in witchcraft puzzled me at first. He has been a devoted and dedicated Christian showing great spiritual maturity. However his spiritual state seems to have been starved by little contact with other Christians. In loneliness and lacking instruction he socializes via computer and -- to meet girls -- he's made some strange friends.

Our society nurtures materialistic spirituality. Materialistic, naturalistic, pseudo-scientific, anti-supernatural, grammar -school philosophy combines with spiritual hunger to produce High-tech shamanism. How curious! They like sword and sorcery comic books in which scantily clad maidens and guys dressed in leopard skins travel by horseback, fly space ships, swing swords, shoot laser rays, communicate through computers and cast magic-spell hexes. I've noticed before that many high-tech people engage in séances and spirit-channeling, plain old voodoo. Their de-personalizing work punching buttons on black boxes fools them into thinking they know about science, not because they understand it but because they benefit from it; their denial of Christ creates a void inside them so they fall for any spirit channeler that comes along with a message from Planet Megog. Understanding neither science nor religion, the poor dupes fall for stone age, bushman magic.

In J***'s case I suspect it's mainly a case of chasing the girl and ending up in her den. Proverbs addresses that. Lord, please lead him to repentance and true humility.

Ginny & I decided that the best answer to our pool problem is to drain all the old water out, clean the liner and refill the pool. It proved to be a much larger job than we thought. We hooked up hoses and directed the waste water into flower beds and onto the grass all over the yard. And of course, hoses kept breaking and gum balls clogged the intakes. And the air temperature dropped severely after we started so we froze our soggy asses.

To compensate, we took a hot shower together and I got to soap her lovely body with scented lotion… Great fun all round.


Saturday, March 18, 2000:

Up early. Gin & I spent the morning helping a work crew at church tear down a termite-infested old garage at the back of the parking lot. This venerable edifice contained huge marble slabs, hundreds of bricks and boards, piles of ancient Boy Scout camping equipment and assorted debris from years of people storing church stuff in there and forgetting it.

First we emptied as much of the internal trash into a monster huge dumpster rented for the occasion. Then we bashed siding off the uprights with sledge hammers and crowbars. Next step was to saw through support pilings; and finally, we tied a rope to the main support and pulled.

The garage imploded with a spectacular crash and the crew of 24 Episcopalians swarmed like ants over the site carting roofing shingles and boards to the dumpster.

Our Bible class (we represented 7 out of the 24 workers) hosted a light lunch for the work crew. Gin & I set up the tables and served. At the end of the lunch I demonstrated the faith hook -- to the amazement of the people who have not been in our adult Sunday school class -- and gave a three minute gospel message inviting people to come study Job with us.

During the work I'd met N***'s wife. She is in the choir and does not attend the Job class but she said her husband has begun studying his Bible every available minute and that he talks about the book of Job all the time. "He even knows the names of the characters," she exclaimed!

Of course Gin & I and everybody else gleaned this and that from the work site. Some guys carted off sheets of plywood, some got folding chairs, two carried off ancient canoe paddles. I brought home an old leaf blower which I hope to repair into working order. Ginny found a cymbal from a drum set and since one of her brothers played drums in the Navy band, she recognized what it was and brought it home for a garden artifact.

To bring this stuff and our tools home I borrowed the church van. And while we had the wheels, we drove up to Publix for a major grocery shopping expedition.

In the evening we were too tired to live! Great fun all round.

Sunday, March 19, 2000:

Last week I assigned the Job class to study chapters 12-15 and prepare a visual on some verse or section which appealed to them. Wonderful results!

M*** brought in a carrot stub which she had rooted in a glass of water: “If a tree is cut down, it grows again from the root; if a man die, shall he live again”?

N*** brought in a plaque with a verse from Jeremiah about hope from his work at the drug counseling center to illustrate Job's comments about hope.

S*** brought in a piece of petrified wood which her father had given her years ago to illustrate the verse about water wearing rocks away.

F*** showed the class a wilted white rose to illustrate the section about man's years being as fleeting as withering grass. She looked up a number of other Bible verses having to do with flowers in support of her talk.

A*** brought the class to it's knees in laughter when he patted his wife’s belly saying she is his show-and-tell project. He used her pregnancy to talk about the section where Job says that a man has no idea how his children will turn out.

I used two illustrations: I demonstrated Job's comments about standing before God for judgment by folding half a paper airplane and tearing two one inch strips down the length of the wings. The torn scraps can be arranged to spell out the word HELL while the intact body of the plane forms a cross.

To show that Christ brings light into your situation no matter how much life has soured on you, I stripped the insulation from a cut-off extension cord, wrapped the bare wires around two iron nails, then inserted the two nails into the ends of a sour dill pickle (not letting the nails touch each other inside the pickle) then plugged it in to a socket. As a result the electricity arcs between the nails inside the pickle and causes it to glow with a bright green light. Great fun.

Gin & I walked home for brunch then spent some time reading side by side….

Some folks down the street brought in a station wagon load of baby toys and clothes for the mission. They also gave me a large entertainment center to hold a tv, vcr, etc.

Monday, March 20, 2000:

I called K*** to borrow the church van tomorrow to deliver those baby things to the mission.

Eve came for a visit today. She has come through her job and financial crisis on her feet. She has applied at Florida State to work on her masters degree in library science.

While we talked I worked on the leaf blower I found Saturday. Got it running for a few seconds.


Tuesday, March 20, 2001:

Drove Gin to work. Read Chaos Theory. Picked her up. Planned a menu and went grocery shopping….

Wednesday, March 21, 2001:

Read all day.

Thursday, March 22, 2001:

After taking Ginny to work, I drove out to Callahan for breakfast and a visit to the ARC Thrift Store where I bought a Boy Scout Handbook and a few other books.

When I picked up Gin from work, we drove to Steinmart where she used her Christmas gift certificate and bought a frog-prince statue for me and a bird which measures the moisture in a potted plant and sings when the soil gets too dry for herself.

Then we drove to K-Mart where I bought 60 pounds of birdseed and Gin brought new bras and panties to showcase her lovely body (actually the cloth was just work underwear but it can't help but showcase her).

Alas! Alas! A Victoria’s Secret body in a K-Mart bra!

Friday, March 23, 2001:

Drove Gin to work then drove to the airport where I spent an hour sipping a two-dollar cup of coffee and watching women wag the corridors. Picked up Barbara and Brittany and drove them to Country Cabin on Dunn Avenue for breakfast. They dropped me at home where I cleaned up a bit till time to met Ginny for supper at Kosta's.

Before supper we strolled talking in the park and feed ducks. We saw eight or ten tiny baby ducklings, fluff balls floating in the pond. Great fun.

At the airport this morning I witnessed an interesting exchange of something between two people in the baggage claim area. The man placed a black carry-on and a laptop on a bench as he engaged in a cell phone conversation. He pretended there was too much noise and walked away leaving his luggage. A woman approached the bench and placed her luggage beside the stuff the man had already left there while she pretended to watch for more baggage on the carrousel... after a bit, she slipped a small packet into a side pocket of the man's carry-on, gathered up her stuff and walked away. In a moment the man returned, picked up his two items and left in a different direction. NO one who had not watched the whole exchange carefully over a period of time could say the two had been together or spoken or even been aware of each other's presence in the crowd.

I wonder what went on there?


Wednesday,  March 20, 2002

==== ==== and more =s! That’s what I did all day!

C*** picked us up as we walked from the bus stop. She asked me to talk with W***  because he’s so depressed.

What in the world could I say to a depressed guy? I’m such a giddy optimist. What do I know about depression?

Tonight D**** called with the joyous news that he, his wife, their two teenaged daughters and their Great Dane will be here for a visit next Thursday as they pass through Jacksonville on a trip to Disney World, Orlando.

I’ll try to finish the disc work – only ten more left to transfer – and clear away the debris generated before their visit.

Thursday,  March 21, 2002

Disc work from 4 a.m.

I called W*** and asked him to drive me to Home Depot to buy grass fertilized, ant killer, paint, etc. for Spring Cleaning…. Yes, I wanted the stuff, but the main reason I called was to get a chance to talk seriously with him about his illness and impending death and depression. I prayed earnestly about this opportunity.

Well, I bought the stuff. But when we talked afterward, my voice had no power, no conviction, no spirit. I said canned words of Christian witness but I may as well have been talking about soap recipes. Witness without balls. O well, His strength is made perfect in weakness. I hope that Scripture’s true.

Gin & I played around on the Internet tonight. I was trying to find a decent screensaver featuring the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders… Ghastly what the Google search engine turned up… a lot of the sort of pornography that degrade humans to the utmost – unless you get your kicks by watching …. More sleaze than erotica.

Friday, March 22,  2002

Worked on disc transfer from 4 to 6 a.m. (The complexity of this final phase of work overwhelms me). Then I went for an appointment with Dr. L***, an eye doctor. I’m still degenerating with macular degeneration.

Met Ginny for supper at K***’s. She told me a bout her job interview today. Hopeful.

When we got home, the beautiful woman created a spread sheet listing the remaining Amstrad discs I still have to transfer. Thus making it possible to straighten out the rat’s nest of intermingled files I have generated -- hopefully without either duplicating them unnecessarily or overriding an updated file with an older version and loosing vital work. Here’s a sample of what she did: ----- Well, I could not get a single page of the 12 page spread sheet to copy over to this location – but her work is compound, complex and full of love for me.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Ginny is taking tomorrow off work, not because of war news but as a mini-vacation day scheduled weeks ago. Therefore, I did some of the donkey work in the yard so we can enjoy pleasure gardening over the long weekend.

I did spell check and prepare two articles on archaeology for the web site (Which still has not been updated). For some reason Google has disappeared from my computer screen and I’ll have to call Donald about it; I have little Internet access.

I spent much of the afternoon watching special tv news coverage of the Iraq war. Most of the news consists of reporters interviewing other reporters, neither of whom know what is going on.

But it’s good show business.

For instance one guy, on the balcony of his hotel in Baghdad, spoke while wearing a gas mask – and a short-sleeved shirt! Pure showmanship.

With a war going on with thousands of men, tanks and planes in action, the tv keeps rerunning the same six or eight film clips. Of course there are the mandatory clips of poor kids in a hospital injured by the mean, cruel U.S. soldiers dropping bombs on their happy homes – I think these are the same clips from the last war or maybe even left over from Viet Nam. TV news is a travesty – but good entertainment.


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