Well, after all of my deliberation, I went to Pascha Saturday night along with Jacob and Elias.
For those of you unfamiliar with Eastern Orthodoxy, Pascha is our celebration of Easter, and is usually on a different weekend than Western Easter. Pascha is the greek form of the word Passover, and is calculated in a very similar way on the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, which is why some years it is the same and some it is later.
The service starts at 11:30pm in a darkened church with prayers, readings, and hymns that harken back to Old Testament prefigurements of Christ (Jonah and the Whale, The burning bush, the three youths in the fire, Habbakuk, etc.). Then all of the lights are extinguished and the clergy start singing the Resurrection Hymn. Slowly from one lit candle passes it’s flame to everyone in the church and then a procession is made around the building with everyone singing. After that is a long, but joyous service that ends at 2:30am or so and after that we feast for a couple of hours and stagger home sleepy and full of the meat and dairy given up for Lent. Being that we are not teetotalers there was a decent amount of not only wine and beer, but also vodka and Jaeger shots.
At that point I went home and slept for a few hours and was back again at noon for a short Vespers service. Following that, we went to a family’s house for a huge party and I had more meat and drink. Well a few drinks; Bob has a bar in his house. I got home around 8pm yesterday and after nearly 24 hours of praying and partying I gratefully jumped into bed and slept until 7am this morning.
There were a few awkward moments, like when a guy who had been there maybe six months greeted me at the front door like I had never walked in the place before. Nice guy, but a surreal experience.
I think, though, that I will get back into going at least a couple of times a month. I’ve forgotten how nice the community is, and this is one of the few churches out there that combines ancient liturgies with modern views on many issues (evolution, gay church members, etc.). I’m still trying to work out a few issues of belief, but that will work itself out eventually or not.
Tonight I met my friend Linda for sushi and we saw The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Jet Li. It was equal parts campy and mythic, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. It reminded me a great deal of a late 80s movies. Mix a little Karate Kid in with Kickboxer and a touch of Army of Darkness and you’ll get something approximating this movie.
Sushi was good as always at Sushi Murasaki. I ordered a bagel roll(smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese), a Clemson roll(spicy shrimp with black and orange maduro), and an asaparagus and avocado roll(this was pretty mediocre).
I also took my boss out to lunch at The Pita House today. He had never been and ended up enjoying the meat dishes greatly, but didn’t care for hummus or falafel. I guess there’s no accounting for taste.
Most of you should know that I’m a big fan of the shortly-lived television series Firefly and the movie Serenity that followed a few years later. My friends Linda and Good Mandy from the Greenville Browncoats have spent months organizing a weekend long Firefly LARP that took place this weekend at Camp Buckhead in Paris Mountain State Park.
For those of you not familiar with the term, LARP is an acronym for Live Action Roleplaying. Instead of the usual roleplaying game where you sit around a table and use dice to determine success or failure at a LARP you dress up as your character and are in game for most of the weekend.
The game was set in a small town on one of the planets on the rim of the Firefly ‘verse. We had set up a judge’s/sheriff’s office, a restaurant, docks, and a bordello /bar.
My character was Samual Seamus McGee or “Sam the Sham”. He is the bartender at Red Annie’s, which is the local house of ill repute. Since alcohol is verboden in SC state parks, I served varities of soda with Firefly-esque labels: Tsunami Cola(Coke), Diet Tsunami Cola (Diet Coke), Blue Lotus Soda(Sprite), Wasabi!(Ginger Ale), and Ju!(Diet Sunkist). I also sold coffee, biscotti, and desserts when our kitchen could provide them. When you check into the game, you receive a character packet that has the rules, health coins, your deck of cards (more on this later), and your “cashy money”, custom made currency to use to buy drinks and meals, item cards, services at Red Annie’s(backrubs, hot towel shaves, and foot washings), and a few miscellaneous things. We also gambled quite a bit, as I ran games of blackjack and Texas Hold ‘Em when the bar was slow.
The plot of the game revolved around a missing Alliance ship that supposedly crashed near the town years ago during the war that carried a vast amount of unusual plat coins. It’s been a local legend for years, but just now a few of the coins have shown up and all kinds of untrustworthy folk are in town making life more interesting than it generally is. I won’t go into all the happenings here, but if you go the this thread at UpstateGeeks.com you’ll find more information.
Saturday night we had the annual “Festival of Lanterns” which wrapped up the game with a filk concert and an improptu drinking party in cabin ten. While we didn’t have real alcohol in the game areas, many people discretely brought beverages to share in their cabins once the gameplay stopped for the night. I brought an entire cooler full of discrete: 1600 Reposado Tequila(a new thing for me), Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Maudite Belgian-style Ale, and the surprise hit: lots of mini bottles of various flavors of Smirnoff vodka that were $0.50 each. Next time I’m not going to get a large bottle of liquor, I’ll just spend $25 on those mini bottles and get some decent beer. If I did that this time I would have spent about half of what I did on booze.
Anyway, a good time was had by all and Linda might throw another one in 6-9 months.
To follow up from my last post I went to church for the first time in three years.
It was awkward, but less awkward than I had anticipated. As expected, I was immediately pulled over into the choir.
I’ll most likely go back for Pascha(Orthodox Easter) on the 26th. That should be interesting. It’s a service that starts at 11:30pm completely in the dark, then a candle is lit in the altar and the flame is passed through candles held by every person and there is a procession around the building three times while singing. After that all of the blood red vestments, curtains, etc have been changed into snowy white and there is a service with some of my favorite music. The service ends at around 3am and there is feasting until dawn with lots of meat(usually a roast lamb) and drink(beer, shots, etc). The next morning at noon is a very short service and then everyone goes over to a party at someone’s house with more meat and booze. It’s usually a pretty good time.
So, no immediate self-realization of where I should be in life, but it feels good to reconnect with the people I’ve spent so much of my life with for the past ten years.
A few posts down, I was commenting back to Jenny regarding my religious history, and though I should just make a blog entry about it.
It’s kind of odd for me, as I have a pretty different religious history than most.
From birth until age seventeen I had maybe entered a church building three times. My parents are culturally Southern Baptist, but never practicing. At around fifteen I started to read the Tao Te Ching and various Buddhist and Neopagan texts.
A friend of mine got me into C.S. Lewis, and a lot of his stuff made a great deal of sense to me at that time. I started going to that friend’s Baptist church and as I decided to leave music performance behind at high school graduation, I looked for something to fill the void, and newly found religion was just the ticket.
I went to a private SBC university (Bob Jones lite), ran into several professors and students professing Hypercalvinism (there is no free will, God chose who was going to heaven and hell before the planet was created, Jesus didn’t die for all people, etc) and that seemed like lunacy to me. I started to look at all kinds of churches in the area; Catholic, Lutheran, Wesleyan, etc., and ran into a close friend’s father who is an Eastern Orthodox priest.
I talked to him several times and visited the mission church he was assigned to, and from the moment I walked in the door I was home. Everything, from the poetry of the liturgy and the chanted psalms, to the a cappella choir performing ancient chants, to the historic icon reprints, to the candles, bells, and incense enveloped me into a multisensory communion that I finally got an idea what heaven as a state of being might be like. Six months later I had gone through the catechumenate and was chrismated as a member of the Orthodox Church on Christmas day 1998. I was nineteen. The next day, I traveled with my sponsor(kind of like a godfather) to a monastery in Pennsylvania and spent a week amongst the monks.
I had a great seven years like that until some of my own issues got in the way and I felt the need to isolate myself. Up until that point the priest was trying to get me to go to seminary and I was directing choir and teaching church school. I was dealing with some of my own head issues and I kept telling myself that I was a complete hypocrite and that all of the people there would be much better off if I wasn’t around. So I stopped going around three years ago.
At this point I’ve been away for three years and I’m not sure about some of the core beliefs anymore. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with gay men and women, I don’t think premarital sex is always a problem. It seems like when I would pray multiple times daily that my life was much worse than it has been for the last few years. For the past few months I’ve started to drift toward agnosticism.
I’m going to go to a lenten Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on Wednesday, see how awkward everything is, and go from there.
I miss the people, the music, the liturgy. I need to see if there are any holes in me that this fills again. “Are you there God it’s me, Margaret?”
I just created a MySpace page for www.upstategeeks.com. (I know I know, MySpace sucks, but I want to build up some traffic for the site) I searched for my MySpace profile to send a friend request so that UG would have a friend listed, and I had to go through 5 pages of David Galloways before I found me! There were 12 pages of DGs total!
I’m seriously thinking about changing my name. I went to high school with two other David Galloways, but fortunately they were freshman when I was a senior so that wasn’t too bad. In fact, when one of them was sent home early, I’d get the note since everyone knew me. And there is another David Galloway at my company of less than 200 people. We constantly have emails, calls, and mail sent to the wrong person.
I could go by my middle name, but that is Elias and one of my best friends is named Elias so that won’t work. Incidentally, Elias’ middle name is David. Go figure.
Anyway, I’m thinking of perhaps taking on another name. Haven’t thought of exactly what yet, but there are a few that are rattling through my head, mostly Celtic and/or Norse names.
If the three people who occasionally read my blog happen upon this post, I’d appreciate any constructive criticism on if I should do this. Need input!
Last night I went to the D&D Gamers Meetup for the first time in nine months, and had a great time.
I stopped going a while back because of some disagreements with the guy who was running the group then. He has had to step down because of health issues, and someone else has taken the group over. I’m sorry that the first guy is going through serious health problems as I never had a problem with him personally, but the new guy has really reinvigorated the group.
Anyway, the new organizer was looking for DMs, I sent him an email telling him how I DMed every Meetup for over a year but I stopped going because blah blah blah, and voiced my other concerns. He send a very lengthy sincere email that assuaged my concerns so I agreed to run a game for the group.
When I first walked into The Command Post(the gaming store where the Meetup is held) I was a little worried, as the only gamers there I recognized were people I did not want to have at my table. But cool people filtered in slowly over the next half hour and thankfully the people I didn’t want did not come to my table.
Last night there were 22 people there divided into five gaming groups (I think). I had four at my table. We got off to a late start as two players had to make characters and the other two were an hour late and then left halfway through to get sandwiches for 25 minutes, so we only got halfway through the adventure. The players seemed to have a great time though, and we’re planning on picking it back up next month.
The crazy thing was that the new organizer is giving out all kinds of schwag. In addition to every member of the group getting a membership card that lets you receive a 10% discount on D&D stuff at two gaming stores, all the DMs were given BI-LO gift cards and a set of every Eberron rulebook was given out as a door prize. I don’t know where the organizer is getting his funding, but I hope it continues.
So to sum up, lots of fun. If you’re in the Greenville area and like D&D be sure to come check it out.
The past 30 hours can be summed up with the three meals I had in that time.
Yesterday evening I met up with my friend Linda who took me out for sushi as a “I’m glad you’re out of the hospital” gift. We went to Sushi Murasaki and I had seaweed salad, a bagel roll(smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado), and a wasabi scallop roll(exactly what it sounds like plus green fish eggs). We then walked over to Cherrydale Cinema and saw Leatherheads. It was a decently fun movie that never had any great moments, but the entire thing was fairly enjoyable. Since a large chunk of the movie was filmed here in Greenville you can recognize several of the buildings. I never thought much of Clooney when he first became a star but since O Brother Where Art Thou? I’ve been slowly admiring most of his work.
Today for lunch I met Fr. Marcus at Handi Indian Cuisine downtown. A bit of background: I haven’t been to church in over three years now and while I was in the hospital Fr. Marcus found out about it and visited me and asked me to forgive him if he did anything that drove me away. Now when I left I had a bone or two to pick with him, but it’s funny how unimportant that is after three years. At this point in my life I’m not sure if I want to get back into going to church. Hell, right now I’d probably even consider myself more agnostic than not if I’m being completely honest. But I do miss the people and the liturgy. I spent seven years of my life with these people and for good or for ill I am connected to several of them in a very real way. Not seeing any of them for the past few years was very painful.
One might ask, “If that was the case why didn’t you go back before now?” Well, my craziness manifests itself as a voice in my head telling me that I’m not good at anything, no one could possibly ever love me or probably even like me, and that these people are better off without me in their life. I realize that this is not reality but the crossed wires in my head messing with me, but it feels very real at times, and I let myself think that in this instance the voices might be right. I’m still working on that.
Anyway, lunch was great and it was nice to spend some time talking with Fr. Marcus again. He didn’t pressure me into coming back, at the end when we parted ways he merely told me that I’m always welcome and he hopes to see me again soon. I want to go back as it’s been a long time, but I’m worried about my current doubts. As the old prayer goes, “Lord I believe! Help my unbelief.”
And the third meal was chinese delivery at Jacob’s house where he, Andy, and I got together for our first poker night. We each put in $10, dealt out the chips, and played several poker variants including No Hold ‘Em, Five Card Stud, Seven Card Stud, Five Card Draw, and Loser No Hold ‘Em where you place your two cards on your forehead and everyone gets to see them but you. Jacob ended up winning after four hours on a No Hold ‘Em hand where Andy and I both went all in. All three of us had straights, but Jacob had the highest one. Ten bucks is a good amount to use for a friendly poker night. It’s not enough that you’ll miss it, and the winner will get enough to do something fun. The chinese meal was Roast Pork with Mushrooms, which is my new favorite chinese dish.
So to sum up, three great meals and three interesting experiences. It has been said that the act of sharing a meal is the last natural act of communion that we have left in the modern era. From my experience I would say that is true.
I like to make Indian food. Okay, not as much as my friend Elias, and I’m going to have to make some of the recipes more healthy now, but I love me a curry.
Anyway, if you love eating Indian but have never made it, give it a try sometime. Elias, Jacob, and I all began making Indian from the cookbook Curries Without Worries by Sudha Koul. That and a dozen or so spices should give you a good start.
Maybe it’s my own food snobbery, but I tend to avoid any recipe I find that calls for curry powder. Curry powder is a British invention to try and add Indian flavor without fresh spices. It’s rubbish, don’t use it. There are thousands of combinations of Indian spice mixes and using just curry powder or the step up ground Garam Masala is like putting Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on everything you cook and calling it properly seasoned.
I also don’t recommend premade spice mixes for specific curries sold in Indian grocery stores. It’s like buying seasoning packets at a regular grocery store in that you pay two bucks for something that would cost you ten cents if you had a regular supply of spices at home. Go to the Indian grocery and spend twenty bucks on 7 oz bags of a dozen spices. You’ll be good to go. You may also want to pick up some ghee(clarified butter), basmati rice, and loose-leaf tea while you’re there.
My only real excitement was on Friday evening (is that technically part of the weekend?) when Andy, Elias, and Jacob came over and we played a lengthy game of Robo-Rally, a great boardgame where each player controls a robot running a race through a dangerous factory. The robots can fall into pits, get crushed, travel on conveyor belts, and even shoot lasers at each other. Elias made fresh guacamole which was incredible. I need to research guac and see how bad it is for diabetics.
My parents were supposed to come over on Saturday at noon to see my new place, but something came up. No big loss.
I went out on Saturday and in addition to running errands (refill RXs, get gas) I went by Boardwalk and Park Place and bought a case of the new D&D Minis set. I’ve been buying this plasticrack for the past 2.5 years now, and I have over 3,000 in my collection. It’s really the only thing I collect other than books and dvds, and I only spend around $200 three times a year so I guess it’s not that bad, but it still feels excessive. When I got home with the case, I went through my ritual of opening each booster individually, taking each mini out of the plastic, marking that mini off on a checklist, and putting the cards in protective sleeves. This is a very zen-like process for me.
I also played a few mock minis games to familiarize myself with the new rules, which I think are mostly an improvement. I would like to play this game more often, but I don’t know too many other people in Greenville who play.
Other than that I pretty much just hung out at home on Saturday and Sunday. I watched season two of Weeds and most of season one of 30 Rock through Netflix Online and did a bit of straightening up.
I went out to Publix a few hours ago to pick up some groceries, and now I’m in love with their freshly brewed iced tea with Splenda. I need to start making this myself, because at $2.29 a gallon I can go through at least five bucks worth a day.