Sunday, July 25, 2010

Homeless but not Without a Home

Two and a half years ago I was standing on elevated television camera box operating at 30 thousand dollar state of the art Sony High Definition video camera for the opening service for the new building of my church. Along with me were Mike S. and Mike O. I was on Camera 1, Mike O. was on Camera 2 and Mike S. was on Camera 3. To us, the future of our church and our ministry had never looked brighter or more successful.

Today, Mike S. and I filmed the last service of our church in that brand new building. Something neither of us had ever expected to do. And, as I stood on Camera 2’s platform looking around our soon to be vacated sanctuary I saw some familiar faces, some not so familiar faces and some downright odd looking faces. Of course I saw Mike S. on Camera 3’s platform and I waved and smiled, then I pressed the button on my communications headset and said something snarky, he laughed and waved back. I looked up to the sound booth and scanned the faces up there, all of them were new except one man, a bearded, hard living, hard riding, bone crunching, loud visage of a man who has become near and dear to my heart. 10AC, I waved to him, he waved back with a big smile on his face and his fully tattooed arms looking like Van Gogh’s palette with his camouflage ball cap in his hand.

I then turned my attention to the multitude of people on the platform, the band members were standing around in a circle, talking quietly amongst themselves with our new worship leader. I recognized only two people up there from the old sanctuary. I “Pushed” my camera lens in close to get a look at all of their faces and did a slow pan left. They all looked happy and relaxed. I shrugged and turned my camera towards the congregation. Some folks I recognized, some I did not but everyone looked happy, comfortable, at peace. They all knew what today was, they knew that we would no long be meeting here. That this was not our home.


Funny word.

From what I understand the Apostles never had a physical church. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that a “Christian” church was built until somewhere around 300 AD. Interesting fact. Of course I could be wrong. The Apostles just went out and started talking to people and eventually were killed or died in their own respects.

We however are not a “Homeless” Church. We have new offices, given they are not owned by us and we have a place to worship, given we do not own that site either but rather we are renting the space, we do have a place to gather and worship.

So as I stood up there on my platform with all of the great memories I had of that building I thought of the one sermon in the Bible that has stuck with me for my lifetime since I heard it that first time so many years ago in a Lutheran Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

It was the “Sermon on the Mount”. We all know the story and we all know the Beatitudes that came from that sermon. But what strikes me the most is that it was on a Mount and that means a hillside in my modern way of thinking. One of the greatest Bible stories did not take place inside of a multi-million dollar building but instead outside in the heat of the day with bugs flying around and unwashed neighbors sitting next to you. I chuckle just thinking about that.

No cameras, no choir, no band, just the Word. And everyone that was there was happy to receive it. So, today as I stood there looking for a crack or fissure in the faces of the congregants I saw instead only hope for the future and faith that things will turn out alright for all of us.

Somehow through all the struggles of the past year in my church we have managed to come through it all. We have survived the lies, the rumors, the injustice and the pain of a tearing of a veil of faith and are continuing to grow.

People are funny, their faith is ridiculous and their spirit is amazing. I love it. I also know where they get it from, which makes me just like them.

It seems somewhat fitting that I came to this church as a stranger and then became one of it's recorders by filming it's history and now I filmed the final episode in it's history as well as filming the birth of a new church that has risen out of the ashes of the burnt and destroyed ruins of it's past.

Have a great week.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Blame the Viking or Brad Pitt whoever shows up first.

I wrote this before the fix/solution had been put into place.

I Blame the Viking

“It’s Brad Pitts fault.”

That’s what I said when I discovered that I had inadvertently walked into a room filled with 4 other people sitting literally at a round table discussing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Not surprisingly the entire room got silent as I walked up to the table, pulled up a chair, sat down and immediately propped my feet up on the edge of another chair.

“Skip, you don’t even know what we’re talking about.” Was the first response out of one of my co-workers mouth.

“Yeah, and what does Brad Pitt have to do with the oil spill Novak?” Another asked.

The other two just stared at me.

“Well, if you really want me to go into this I will.” I said and then I thought about this blog and you guys, my Dear and Wonderful Readers. So I composed this blog while sitting around a round table in a building with 4 people I work with and you know what? It’s time for you to read about it.

I am going to try and summarize as much as I can. I am also going to try and leave out most of the conversation that followed, along with all the off color jokes about Llamas. Why? Well, simple, off color Llama jokes is an entirely different Blog.

So this is what I tried to explain to them.

To say that Tony Hayward, BP’s CEO, is responsible for the oil rig explosion in the Gulf is a lie. To say that BP is responsible for the Oil Rig explosion in the Gulf is wrong. To say that the men working on the Oil Rig in the Gulf when it exploded is wrong. This is not about right or wrong. This is not even really about responsibility. This is about SHORTCUTS! We all take them. We are even proud when we can share our shortcut knowledge with others. It’s fun. You do it. I do it. It is a fact of life.


You see, in Canada when a company wants to do offshore drilling that company first has to drill the relief well. Actually in most countries this is true. Even ours. Most of the time, but in this instance there was no relief well drilled. Why? I don’t know. I would like to know but there wasn’t one. Hmm, methinks there may be a waiver by some Government agent somewhere. Who’s in charge of protecting the environment? Anyone? How bout you. Yeah, you. The one sitting there raising your hand at a computer right now.

That’s RIGHT! The EPA is in charge of protecting our environment and I am not sure but I think that somewhere in some drawer in some Civil Servants desk somewhere in America is a piece of paper that is signed by someone that has or had the power to grant that waiver. And no one will admit to it. No one would be dumb enough to admit to it. Why? Simple, it is easier to point your finger at an “EVIL GREED RUN CORPORATION” than it is to stand up, raise your hand and say “Ooops, my bad. I am the idiot responsible for the world’s greatest ecological disaster since Krakatoa erupted.”

I know, I know, Krakatoa was a volcano and man did not cause it to erupt, but it was a disaster of epic proportions.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a terrible disaster and I hate that it happened. I hate the fact that incalculable damage to our shores and wildlife is happening now and will continue to happen for years to come. But I truly do not believe it is the fault of BP or the oil rig manufacture. I believe it was a veritable man made domino snake waiting to be knocked over by humankind’s inability to do the right thing at every level of this particular evolution from the lobbyist in Washington DC to the Inspectors of the rig itself. Honestly, I have this mental image of the Three Stooges trying to pull this off in one of their short films. Moe being the ringleader and bribing and strong-arming everyone in site, Larry running around trying to pick up the oil drill pipes and Curly trying to make the pipes go into the floor of the ocean with a 10 ounce ball-peen hammer.

So when I hear someone say “It’s this guys fault or that guys fault.” I say in return “It’s Brad Pitt’s fault.” Why? Simple, cause he had as much to do with that rig blowing up as the Tony Hayward did.

One last note, please let us not forget the 11 men that died on that rig when it exploded or their families.

Here are then names of the men that lost their lives on the explosion of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the gulf:

Jason Anderson
Aaron Dale Burkeen
Donald Clark
Stephen Curtis
Roy Wyatt Kemp
Karl Kleppinger
Gordon Jones (M-I SWACO)
Blair Manuel (M-I SWACO)
Dewey Revette
Shane Roshto
Adam Weise

P.S. Always "Blame the Viking" he is the one who drinks all the coffee, breaks the dishes, hits your car and does not leave a note, drinks the milk from the container and absolutely does not wear a helmet with horns on it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Family Reunion

Today was a good day in the Heart of the South. First off was Church and I must say that while I was a bit rusty as director of programing I did manage, with the talent nad hard work of my cameramen, to direct not just the worship service but also the message to a well receptive congregation. We only have a few more weeks left in our building but that is OK. Most folks at our Church have made peace with the fact that we are moving on to new a new building and view it as an adventure, sort of like the Jews in Exodus, I just hope it doesn't take us 40 years to find a permanent home. I am a bit excited myself at the prospect of starting over. Well, except for all the wires and cables we will end up pulling through small holes. But I digress.

After service my wife and I decided that instead of traveling over an hour south to a yearly family reunion held in North Carolina with her reletives that we rarely speak with and only see at this particular reunion, that instead we would surprise our daughter with a special Double Feature Family Fun day at the local movie theatre. First though we stopped by the local super discount store and loaded up on candy that we enjoyed and that was not overpriced or stale from sitting in an highly florescent lit display case for the past 15 days.

For me? I got Reese’s Peanut Butter BAR! Yes, I said BAR. Delisciousness in a plastic wrapper. If you like peanut butter and you like chocolate, you will LOVE this thing. Oh, and it is so rich you will wish you had at least a gallon of milk to wash this insanely sweet confection down with.

My daughter? She picked a classic, Bottlecaps and then proceeded to share with me all the root beer ones. I LOVE HER!

My wife? Mini M&M’s. What is not to like about pure raw unadulterated candy coated chocolate?

After arriving at the theatre, my daughter in her exuberance was pretty much dancing from the car to the ticket booth and she kept changing her mind on which CGI film to see. I stepped up to the ticket booth and said “3 tickets for the 2 o’clock Toy Story 3.” My daughter smiled, jumped, clapped and squealed. I smiled.

Then my wife stepped up to the ticket booth and said “3 tickets for the 5 o’clock Despecable Me.” Our daughter stopped jumping, squealing and clapping. She froze. Looked from me to my wife and then back to me. My smile grew even larger.

“Yes Goose, it is a family double feature. Two movies and a day of fun.” I said as I pulled open the door and we walked up to the popcorn counter to purchase more junk food.

After the overly buttered, overly salted, overly priced corn and sodas were purchased we then spent the next 40 minutes playing video games and trying to win stuffed animals out of the Claw machine. We did not win any animals but one girl, who had an armful of these animals, was nice enough to share with my offspring one of her many purloined fluffy treasures with her. Which just added to her happiness.

Once games and fun was had by all we made our way to the theatre for the first round of animated madness. We all laughed and we all got a bit choked up. If you have not seen Toy Story 3 please correct that now.

Afterwards we sat in the lobby of the theatre, talked about the film, played more games and then went in the next darkened theatre for Despicable Me. Good times, we laughed, we got choked up and we all agreed it was worth the wait.

Then we came home where we are almost forced to sit around and try and live with each other. We cope. We laugh, we get choked up and we all agree that spending the day together in a darkened movie theatre breathing canned air and eating junk food was a whole lot better than sitting in bug infested field in the sweltering heat of an unforgiving North Carolina sun eating store bought fried chicken and making small talk with people we have almost nothing in common.

Come to think of it, I believe I did go to a Family Reunion today.

Have a great week everyone.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

3 Ring Circus

It has been a busy week here in the Heart of the South. Booksales, good friends, food, family time and the 60 to 70 hours worth of work I managed to accomplish. So, where is this blog going? Simple, I am gonna cheat and do something I have been trying to avoid doing.

I am gonna talk a bit about Politics and my lack of interest in them lately. Why? Because I just don’t feel like expunging any of the emotional cancerous goo that is building up inside me. I’m way too tired for that and I just don’t have the energy to bleed that much onto my keyboard and then spend hours cleaning up the mess. And, sometimes a person just needs to keep some things locked up inside for a little bit longer so that the festering crud can mature.

Onto the topic in our Hometown News!

The mayor of my city is being recalled. This is really not revealing news if you have lived here in Virginia for the past 9 months. The citizens of Portsmouth have been screaming for the mayors head since his latest assistant has come out and screamed about his abuse of power and all the non government business he had her doing. The list of transgressions is pretty impressive and range from “Labeling his socks” (I really don’t know how a person would do that but ok) to “Canceling his Playboy Subscription” (Why? Don’t know except he is in his 80’s) to getting “Slim fitting T-shirts and Turkey Neck Crème.” (Simply because he is old and putting on weight and wants to look good)

There have been television interviews, newspaper articles, fights and even lots of name calling. It has trully been a wonderful time to be a spectator on the political front lines. Heck, even the City Council has come out and asked for this guy to retire. He refuses and simply says that “It is all part of my persona and she and you should accept it.” He stated that in a television interview. I laughed, I cried and then I shrugged my shoulders and walked away. Why? Because as a City Employee I can’t afford to get involved on either side of this mess.

I say let them fight it out and when the election comes I will go vote like I always do. I will even vote in the Recall Election simply because I believe that you have to participate in the process if you are ever gonna see a change in anything. But for all the pomp can crapolla that leads up to it? I just don’t care. Look, I never voted for this guy, even when no one was willing to run against him. I wrote in names and those names are unimportant especially since there really is no Howard Roark or John Galt but I voted and that is what counts. Right?

Well that’s it for now. If you want to know more about this three ring circus go to WAVY DOT COM and look it all up or even PILOTONLINE DOT COM. Loads of laughter will fill your day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Heart and Home.

In 1985 I left my home in Wisconsin to go to California to learn how to be a sailor. This Blog is not about that. After boot camp and ATD School I went to Ohio to spend some time with a woman who I loved. This Blog is not about that. After a week of playing house with Terry I went back to Wisconsin to spend a week at home with my Dad. This Blog is not about that. I left Wisconsin once again and headed out to Philadelphia to catch a plane to Sicily. This Blog is not about that. For the next 4 years of my life I spent onboard the USS Austin. This Blog is not about that. When I got out of the Navy I spent many a year floating around different apartments in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia. This Blog is not about that. Two years ago I bought my house. My house is my home. This Blog is about that.


They say “Home is where the Heart is.” My heart is in my chest so that must be where my home is. Man, I wish I could claim that line. I can’t. It does not belong to me. For some of the more geekified folks out there you will recognize it from “Dr. Horribles Sing A Long Blog” the character Captain Hammer sings that line. And you know what? It’s true. Home is in your chest, so to speak.

You see, no matter where I have lived, whether in a multi-million dollar ship, a crappy roach infested 1 bedroom apartment with a hygiene challenged shipmate, a two bedroom brand new apartment and apartment complex or now my own 3 bedroom 1 and a half bath mortgage, I have always been home. I have managed to find someplace to lay my head at night and drift off to the land of Nod with little or no effort. Home. Even when I am crashing on an air mattress in a new found friends basement suffering emotional strife, I feel a comfort of home. A feeling most say they don’t understand unless they are in their own beds and amongst their own family.

Do I like it? Not really. And as most of my family will confirm, I don’t like change. I am not the kind of person who enjoys a life of flux. But, when needed or when I am in a travel mindset I can easily adjust. Easily rest and sleep.

But today, the reason I am writing this, something happened that make me realize that not only am I Home but I have also become part of a larger community. Like a cog in the great machine of life. You see dear reader I was sitting on my front porch, checking my Facebook updates and bantering with my Twitter pals when a familiar couple of faces ride up on a pair of matching bikes. “Hi TRAINMAN!” they scream to me. “We didn’t know you lived in this neighborhood.”

I look up from my laptop, pull my Gurkha out of my mouth, put on my best social smile, wave and say “Hi Jessie, hi Katherine. What brings you to this part of town?”

“We’re just getting out doing some exercise and looking around the neighborhood. We only live a few blocks away.” Katherine states and dismounts her bicycle, puts the kickstand down and walks up the driveway to the front porch and gives me a hug. Jessie also gets off his bike and sets his in front of my car and goes gets his wife’s bike out from the middle of the street. He walks over, shakes my hand and our conversation starts.

I am not going to go into all the hills and valleys of our discussion. But I will say like all good impromptu conversations it ebbed and flowed like the tide. It was fun. Then, as things were winding down a large, maroon Cadillac four door sedan stops in front of my house and an elderly gentleman rolls his window down “Hiya Skip! I didn’t know you lived here.” Comes the voice from the driver’s seat and then a tiny female head pops up from the passenger seat and says “Hello Mr. Novak! How are you and your daughter this summer?” the driver and his passenger are from the school my wonderful offspring attended for the past 3 years. Our three way conversation just grew exponentionaly.

More hills, more valleys, more information was exchanged. We stood out there on the edge of my driveway in the 93 degree heat as children ran and frolicked, while teenagers snuck into the alleys to smoke, while pet owners walked their dogs and some homeowners practiced the futile attempt at taming mother nature by cutting grass, clipping and pruning trees and bushes. I slowly puffed on my cigar, spoke in a genteel manner and enjoyed the almost timeless practice of bonding over a beautiful day and the history of my now adopted home town.

That is when I had my epiphany. It hit me in the face like a twenty pound mallet. I had become a part of my community. I had not only moved here but over the course of twenty five years I have made friends, enemies and managed to immerse myself in the culture, language and history of Portsmouth. I not only have a home here but it seems that maybe I will be missed when I am gone. That some folks come to look forward to running into me, whether it’s at a book sale, toy train swap meet, a restaurant or even out doing the mundane things of life like purchasing groceries, always seems to surprise me. I am not the most pleasant person to be around most of the time. Ok, I need to expand on that last sentence.

I am not the most pleasant person to be around if I don’t like you. I usually am quite gruff and curt to most of the people in my daily work life. I just want to be left alone and do my job most of the time. That being said, I do run into people that actually enhance my life and bring certain joy to my extremely busy life. So, when the great Goddess Serendipity flings people I actually like into my path I try to take the time out of my normal busy day and enjoy the madness that has reared its head. Like in this case, I spent an hour of my life listening to what they had to say about life, the weather, and politics both local and national. It was fun, informative and I am glad that it happened.

My home is where my heart is and for now it’s in Portsmouth, Virginia. I walk down the street and people know my name. I get phone calls from friends to my office. It’s a pretty good place to live. It’s a pretty good life.

I’m home and I hope you are too.