Johnny Boston

The other day, coming home on TRAX, I met a man named "Johnny Boston--self-proclaimed." His accent was thick as Chow-duh, his mullet was even thicker, and the weight-belt poking out of his uncomfortably tight sweatpant/wife-beater ensemble made his torso seem thickest of all. But man howdy! how we had a good conversation! In 15 minutes, we talked about his life in Boston, New York City, and Utah, the meaning of life, and that damn steep hill going up the East Bench. Johnny had been homeless from 17 to until recently, where he's now working in SLC and living with a friend of his, 61-year-old Ms. Jo. Through the course of our conversation, I discovered that Johnny's 47, a fan of Salt Lake, somewhat familiar with the wrong side of the law (we chatted about criminal prosecution a bit) and I'm pretty sure he gave me his phone number to "call up if you ever want to say hi to Joe." It wasn't weird or awkward, because it was heartfelt. It all so reminded me of making friends at busstops in Brazil or on sleeper trains in Switzerland. Lordy, how I love public transportation! Anyway, Johnny was lugging about 40 pounds of food up from one of the local missions to get to a friend of his who'd just gone through a difficult lay-off. We struck up our conversation because he asked me to help get the food on and off TRAX. And it struck me that this guy, who works at a downtown restaurant, probably well in excess of 40 hours a week, and definitely not making supreme amounts of money, would take some of his precious time off to get food for a friend, deliver it to his house, and all on a light rail train. Sometimes, in the midst of the running and broo-ha-ha of life, tiny things make you stop and consider the tracks your on and just how fast your going. Sometimes, you have to slow down in order to hit the right path. Thanks, Johnny. You just made another friend.


A Magical Evening

So Wednesday night, my brother Timmy and I went to go see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. While the movie was predictably good (much better than the recent spate of borish "Blockbusters," and almost as good as Movie III, "The Prisoner of Azkaban"), the events that transpired within 20 minutes of the beginning and the ending of the movie made the evening, for lack of a better modifier, MAGICAL.

First, we ran into my cousin Chad and his wife Heather. They were just getting their tickets to Transformers when we ran into them. After talking to them for a few minutes, we finally convinced them to exchange their tickets and go see Ratatouille (hands down this summer's best movie). Good thing, because it was Heather's birthday movie. I quote Timmy on just how good Ratatouille really is: "Magnifique!" (If you haven't seen this latest Pixar masterpiece yet, call me. I WILL go with you. (You might have to pay, though, as my cash flow has been...interrupted for a little bit.))

After soaking up the Digital Experience that was Harry Potter V, Timmy and I started to head towards the Exits. From below I hear a muffled "Eric Vogeler!" and looked to see one of my favorite families: The Thorntons! Rick and Sue, John and Barb, Mark and Chelsea (and I think I saw a couple more, but only in the periphery). There were hugs all around, because let's face it, I'm a hugger, and we chatted Harry for about 10 minutes. And let me tell you, it was serious. There was heavy debate as to Harry's fate in Book VII, Dumbledore's ultimate demise(?), and Snape's actual loyalties/disposition (my opinion: he's a good guy!) It's fun to know that Geek is Chique now, legitimizing much of my childhood and/or literary choices. For everyone who laughed at me when I was reading The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia when I was at Bonneville Elementary, I have only one thing to say: 1 Trillion Dollars!!! (That's my ballpark figure of the combined earnings of their movie counterparts). That's a lot of money.

Finally, after saying our goodbyes to the Thorntons and wending our way through Gateway's basement parking cellar (approx. temperature: hell), Timmy and I took "The Van" home. The Van, our burgundy red, 1987 Dodge Caravan (with faux wood paneling!) has been called many things over her 20-year lifespan--"The Love Wagon," and "Big Red" being some of my favorites--but usually, she's just referred to as The Van. Below is a photo of The Van's cousin, "Whitey": Now, as you can guess, a 20-year-old Dodge Caravan has it's problems. The air conditioning ceased to work about 5 years ago; the brakes sometimes choose, at very inconvenient times, to freeze up; and the transmission had to be replaced about 4 years ago to "save its life," I believe is what the mechanic said. (It's when you hear these things about a car that you really wonder why euthanasia isn't more popular in our culture. But I digress...)

Anyway, as old and beatup as the Van is, she's still got it where it counts--under the hood. She's a V6 Vixen, and she can hold her own at the line. So when Timmy and I came bouncin' up in her at 8th South and State Street talkin' Dumbledore vs Voldemort, you can only wonder what the guy next to us thought about the two 20-something guys whose ride could seat a little league soccer team. To our credit, we were blasting the Cranberries' "Linger," our windows were down (no AC, remember?), and the guy to our side was covered in tats and driving a 1980s Ford Bronco. I looked over at him from the passenger seat, gave him the two fingered "What's up?" salute. Timmy said "Shall we?" to which I responded "We shall," and as soon as the light turned green, Timmy gunned it. The Van leapt off the line, and screamed up 8th South to...2nd East, where we had to stop short at another red light.

Alright, so now Bronco knows what game we're playin. I'm gettin' a little nervous, but Timmy's calm as a summer evening--"She's still got it, brother. Don't worry!" he said, gently stroking the dashboard, as if to calm the mighty steed that is our Caravan. Up rolls the Bronco. We don't look at the guy, but we can feel him there on the side. By this time, we're at the climax of "Linger," and Dolores O'Riordan is crooning "You know I’m such a fool for you...You got me wrapped around your finger...." and before she could sing "Do you have to let it linger" we were off again. Timmy and I both bellow "VROOOOOM!" as if it will help. I swear to you now, it did. We peal out and immediately begin to revel in our victory once more, as we rocket up 8th South, singing along at the top of our lungs "Do you have to, do you have to, Do you have to let it linger!" The Van gets a nice rub on the dashboard, and we're feelin pretty proud, when...

...we have to stop again at 4th East. By now, we're giggling like sophomore boys, and wondering when the traffic gods will respect our awesome power. But, wouldn't you know it, up chugs the Bronco. This is too much, I'm thinking, this guy is gonna get pissed off! We can't look over, because we're guffawing now, and just hoping that the light turns green quickly when, and I kid you not, Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" comes on. While that may be a great song at any other time, it's not quite what you'd expect at a muscle car standoff. But for us, it was perfect. I raise my left hand up, look over at Timmy and say "Let's do it, brother." He grabs my hand, looks me in the eyes and in a Peter and Nathan Petrelli moment says, "I love you, brother." And off we fly... to Somewhere Only We Know. (Home, really.)

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?

I'm getting old and I need something to rely on.

So, tell me when you gonna let me in,

I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin.

So if you have a minute why don't we go,

Talk about it somewhere only we know?

That song never held more meaning than it did that night, on that street, in that Van. Magical, isn't it?



Alright, so I was wondering the other day on my flight home from Brazil about something. Penguins. One of the airline movies was the Oscar-Award-Winning Al Gore Production Happy Feet. In short, it's a movie about Penguins. Also out in theaters right now: Surf's Up. In short, IT is a movie about Penguins. And let's not forget the most popular documentary film EVER, the emperor of them all: March of the Penguins. (That was a great date movie, wasn't it?). We all know what that one's about. Why our obsession with the little black and white flightless birds who live their lives in a frozen tundra, go hungry for really long periods of time, and generally just walk around with the rest of their time?
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a Penguin hater. They can waddle, wonk, and widdle about their icy world all they want. There's nothing wrong with being a penguin. But I sometimes wonder why Penguins catch our attention so. I know, kind of weird that I spend time on such a trivial thought, but I think thinking is a luxury activity these days.
Really, though, is it the binary conflict going on in their worlds, represented in their black and white outer layer? Is it the stunning landscapes they inhabit? Is it the simplicity of their taciturn existence, or the complexity of their gender-swapping relationships that grips us? Or is it just that they're funny?
For the heck of it, here's a poem I wrote a while back, somewhat influenced by...you guessed it!... PENGUINS!!
Black Ice
September 5, 2005 I’d starve a summer with you on my toes Away from Royal shores you cannot crack- And with my back slough off the icy winds Outside- a chill, a season of blank white To warm insides, my love, look down and see. Look up, pale night- an astral symphony Of tonic lights and southern crossing stars. To know one day you’ll chance your life to swim Is Good, is Reason, is God: enough for me. Oh, please hurry the food, if not for me For us and life which hangs below a downy- Feathered skirt torn between my love of life
And Love for you, Gray dancer on my feet.


Travel, Inc.

Well, sorry for the L...O...N...G delay between posts, but I've been spiriting about the wilds of Brazil for the past couple of weeks and only returned home last Thursday. It's good to be home, and even better that I can reminisce so quickly. So, in order for you to get a feel for how FREAKING awesome it was, here are some pics and some comments from my trip. (I feel like I just wrote "Here is a picture." If you felt patronized, I'm truly sorry. You're WAY smarter than that.)

Here I am with Elder Christensen (left) and Elder Nicholes (right), my 7th and 6th great-grandchildren, respectively. (This is actually taken in the same office I cried in daily as the Financial Secretary for the Mission. That dear air conditioner is still chuggin'!) And, as it happens, one of Elder Nicholes' friends from his days at Jackson Hole is a good friend of mine. So when he got his call to Manaus, she informed him that I had served there. I wrote him an email about 2.5 years ago telling him how much I ADORED Manaus and what he could expect from that BELLA city. It's only right that he follow in my footsteps and blaze his own trails on the way.

This was a little barbeque/get-together at Kiyoshi and Elizabeth Miki's house in Manaus. (They're the lovely couple on the right). Also on the left is Andrea Leao and not pictured is Jessica Miki. They were some of my favorite people in one of my favorite wards in Manaus--Flores. And in case you hadn't guessed it, that's me holding an enormous Top Sirloin trying to avoid the Coconut Volture that was hanging right above my head. ;P

Here's a picture of me lookin' smokin' hot at the Temple Site in Manaus. Now you can simultaneously behold the beauty of the Rio Negro and that of the only white guy within 50 miles. In a serious note, I cannot adequately describe how lovely this property is. The cool breeze whipping off the river, the continual battle between towering thunderheads and scathing sunshine, the majesty of the mightiest river on the planet--it all must be experienced to be understood, as is so often the case in life. I cannot wait for the House of the Lord to be erected here. But I guess 4 years or so won't be too long to wait. Heck, I'll only be 28!

Here's a photo with Richard (left), Bryan (right), and myself (center--again, patronizing, huh?). You might be surprised by how white we are, but you have to remember that it's winter in Brazil right now. These gentlemen were gracious and charitable enough to put me up for five nights in their comfortable apartment. To top it all off, they even gave me the masterbed. It was probably the most comfortable accomodation I've ever had in Manaus. We took a day to go see the "Encontro das Aguas"--The Meeting of the Waters--where the Amazon River (in Brazil, called the Solimoes) and the Rio Negro meet and DO NOT MIX for several miles. It's black running against yellow, and it's another "Must See to Believe" moment. Check out the pictures below to see just how much Mother Nature was showing off when she invented this stretch of water!

How cool is that?! Seriously!!! On a side note, that shirt was given to me after I got caught in a freak downpour and completely drenched. The Brazilian gentleman, Bispo Nedson from one of the Wards I served in, literally gave me the shirt off his back.
This is a floating house on the Amazon River. These people live without electricity, television, cars, phones, etc. and prefer to fish, hunt, and gather their food to going to the local supermarket. Approximately 2 million people, called Caboclos, choose to live this lifestyle in the state of Amazonas alone. If you ask me, they have something going on that's pretty plush in its own right. Besides, if you don't get along with your neighbors, you can just row a little ways upstream. ;P
Cool Picture, no?
Even cooler picture, yes?

For those of you wondering, Yes, that is a floating Church, and NO, its members do not walk on water to get there. I'm pretty sure they come by boat. Or swim. But the Piranhas are pretty feisty in this part of the water, so my money's on the boat.
In the "dry" months, this tree grows on land, called an Igarapo. If you look carefully, you can see a small bird that looks like a heron. When we watched it flap away and dive gracefully into the water to catch a fish, there was an audible "oooooh" from the other passengers.
I've always wanted to be a Pirate! I promise, I yelled ARGHHHHHH! as loud as I could. (Notice how my jaw is crooked from "arghing") However, the blue collared shirt, the fossil watch, the "Amazon Explorers" sticker on my shirt pocket, and my lack of an eyepatch, all tend to indicate that I'm not really a pirate. But I sure had a few seconds there where, if people hadn't known, and/or had their back to me, they would have been REALLY scared. I'm kind of glad no one jumped into the water from fright, 'cause they could have been eaten by the nasty fish in the Amazon.
Well that's about it for the scenery of Manaus. I'll try and get a post up about some of the people I know and met while out here soon.