Humbly Grumbling About Cars, Music, and God

I apologize for not having written anything lately.  I’m not dead yet, but still steadily disintegrating.

Why is it than whenever anyone says “Thank God” (or as my Brazilian English students used to say, “Thanks, God”), you never hear a “You’re welcome”?

Apparently, Einstein considered himself an agnostic rather than an atheist.  Although he didn’t believe in a personal God, he felt that the universe was too amazing a creation to have been made merely by accident, or by chance.  He also felt that whatever spiritual force held the whole place together was beyond our tiny minds to either comprehend or articulate (so I guess talking about it as if we knew one way or another is a colossal waste of time).

Stephen Hawking has come out with an announcement that black holes actually don’t exist.  Can we still use them as a metaphor?

The other day in the New York Times column “The New Old Age,” I read that washing your car qualifies as a form of exercise for those middle-aged folks who are unathletically inclined.  As I don’t own a car but am still in dire need of exercise, I’m thinking about offering to wash the bus instead.  It should provide me with a better work-out and may help me shed the man-boobs so I don’t have to get drastic by going in for a double mastectomy instead.  Then again, as I also frequently ride the subway, maybe I should wash it instead and get an even more intensely macho mass-annihilation of calories.  (Hey, we already have a war on drugs, another on poverty, and one on terror–time for a war on fat.  While we’re at it, how about a war on war?)

Since I’m not an athlete, why do I have athlete’s foot?

When I was a kid, a friend of my brother contemplated stealing a 45 rpm record he saw entitled I Hate Hate.  Luckily, he thought better of it.  As Martin Luther King would say, “You can kill a hater, but you can’t murder hate.”  That really pisses me off.

A few months ago I got stuck for several hours on the George Washington Bridge.  I’m not sure why.  One of my favorite songs kept going through my head, until I couldn’t stand it anymore:  Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Speaking of Paul Simon, I saw him interviewed with Sting on Rolling Stone magazine’s website.  Don’t get me wrong–I love Simon and Garfunkel.  They may even be my favorite American folk-pop duet (how many others can you think of?  Just kidding; I’ve always been a major fan).  But it seems to me that some of these old guys just don’t know when to quit.  Let’s face it:  rock and roll is mainly a young person’s game.  I would say the same thing about comedy, except there are a few exceptions (George Carlin and Don Rickles come to mind).  As for rock, Neil Young had a good thing going for a long time, but I think the time may have come for even Neil to quiet down.  Paul McCartney can’t sing worth shit anymore and has no right to waste people’s time or expect them to pay money to hear him live (even though tons of folks still do; he can keep riding on that old surviving Beatles status).  I watched a clip of Mick Jagger singing “Under My Thumb” from 1982, and even back then he was dialing it in, just manically pacing back and forth across the stage as if he’d forgotten where he’d left his wallet.

Apparently, Art Garfunkel was crestfallen about what he perceived to be his erstwhile singing partner’s betrayal, so he’s paired up with Neil Diamond for a new tour.  They’ll be appearing as Diamond and Garfunkel.

I wonder if Art Garfunkel ever got teased for his name when he was a kid.  

“Hey kid, what’s your name?”


“Wow, pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you?”

“No, not really.  What’s your name, by the way?”

“My real name’s Rembrandt, but my friends just call me Velasquez.”

Pete Seeger kept going for a long time.  I guess by the time he turned 94 (96?), he looked at his calendar and said, “Enough of this shit.  I’m outta here.”

After hearing Barack Obama’s recent speech to a bunch of General Electricians in which he pooh-poohed art history as a choice of college major (too impractical), my niece has decided to throw away her dreams of preserving art appreciation as part of our cultural heritage.  Instead she’s going to major in Petroleum Studies at the Georgetown University of Parasitic Progress.  I’m sure the president would be proud.

The other day I had to share a lunch with the pastor of my wife’s church.  (Talk about awkward.)  My wife was helping out in the cafeteria kitchen, so I had to make small talk with the guy myself.  Fortunately, most Korean people don’t talk while they’re eating, but those who do like to share with you a view of what’s going on in their mouths.  The pastor is no exception.  Maybe if I’d peered real closely I could have seen Jesus’ face swimming around between his mandibles.  (Jesus, by the way, has a cameo as a fish in the upcoming film about Noah starring Russell Crowe as the man himself–Noah, not Jesus.  What goes on in the ocean during the flood serves as a somewhat uneventful subplot.)

The pastor’s cronies joined us.  One of them looks like a member of the supporting cast of the Korean version of Goodfellas.  He always shakes my hand when he sees me and says, “Nice chew mee chew.”  I’m only making fun of the way he talks because he’s religious.  Otherwise I wouldn’t.  In case you think I’m being unfair, consider that my wife gives ten percent of my income to this doubtful organization, even though she knows I think it’s all bullshit.  She doesn’t respect my opinion, and I don’t respect her beliefs, so we’re even.  

The pastor disappointed me when he said he drove a car instead of using public transportation.

“Well, I guess you have to, right?  You’re a celebrity,” I said.  His English is pretty good, but I don’t think he got the joke.  After nearly eight years of teaching in Korea, I’m used to this, however.

I can understand certain people here feeling the need for a car, I guess, despite the city’s excellent public transit system.  It’s always an honor to have to step out of the way of an SUV barreling down my sidewalk-less street so the driver can be on his or her important way.  Maybe they’re transporting a bunch of orphans, or a vital shipment of TNT to a convenience store.

But the fact that the pastor, who has an adult daughter (adopted), needs to shlep around in a car, to me is pathetic. Okay, maybe I just hate the guy for having brainwashed my wife for so many years (and he’s not the only one, now that she’s found some virtual dictators to listen to online, who help her dictate their message to unlistening me), but it seems Cheneyesque that an ostensible man of the people obviously goes far out of his way to avoid human contact as often as possible, except when he’s fondling his flock (figuratively speaking, of course) on Sundays, shmoozing for a bruising, as it were. 

Maybe God will test his faith one of these days by giving him a flat tire.

Another time my wife Jina and I were riding the bus when we saw a young fellow I recognized from her congregation (a word derived from Latin that originally meant “a group of people who are willingly conned by a snake-oil salesman on a weekly basis”).  

“Hey, don’t you know that kid?” I asked.

The “kid,” who got on the bus, turned out to be a budding minister himself.  (Jina, who’s even more tactless than I am, told him in Korean what I’d said.  Now he’ll probably have an even harder time getting laid than I do.)

Long live the mindless virus of the mind!



2 thoughts on “Humbly Grumbling About Cars, Music, and God

  1. There’s so much to comment on here, Stew. First, some fitness advice. Start small – maybe a Smart Car – and work your way up, or is it down, the subway. Second, I’m surprised you don’t like Neil Young what with hm being an advocate for mama-earth. I don’t think his voice has changed much over the years. It was bad to begin with. 3. Adoptive mother voice here: Why identify the child as adopted? She’s a daughter. Period. 4. Still funny, after all. (Nod to Paul Simon here.)

    • sorry, susanne. you’re right about neil young. frankly speaking (as my students would say), i haven’t had a chance to hear much of his recent work over the past several years, thus have no right to criticize him. i still think he did his best work musically in the early to mid-seventies. also, i didn’t intend any slur against adoption, and applaud the practice. who knows? i may even adopt a child myself some day (it’s a little too late to take the biological route). thanks as always for your comments!

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