22 October 2012

Eye Heart San Francisco

How does an unemployed graduate student score a weekend in San Francisco?

First, he has to have been employed, and in that state gotten used to some flexibility and freedom to travel. Then, he has to have some kind of relationship to an airline; something that will provide him with travel funds. Importantly, he will need a wife who is a whiz at tracking said funds, organizing life, and a fun travel companion. Oh, and it also helps to have a free place to stay, and a child with a car.

All that came together for my Karen and me when, the first weekend of my unemployment-for-studies, we headed off to San Francisco. Since my work for 3 decades has involved Sundays, we haven't exactly had the freedom to take weekend trips. But over the years we have enjoyed some of the perks of Southwest Airline; notably, for this trip, their policy of letting customers cancel a flight without penalty, and holding those funds for use at a later date. That date was to expire this month, and here we were with an open weekend which to go away for did not require making substitute arrangements for Sunday morning. Off we went!

Son Chris planned a delightful two days for us. We landed mid-evening Friday and settled in at his condo, anticipating a full Saturday in the sun. That included a leisurely stroll at Coyote Point Park, along the Bay, lunch with niece Jennifer Dew, Jose de Castro, Isadora and her friend Sweden. (Yes, a California teenager named Sweden.) This was my first Indian meal since India, and it was nostalgic to slowly work the excellent buffet table.

Jennifer recommended a visit to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, at Moss Beach, on the ocean side of the peninsula. We thought we'd get that in after a hike along the peninsular ridge. Traffic on the beautiful windy road across was bumper-to-bumper, and it soon became apparent that we wouldn't have time for the hike and the tidal pools, so we just pressed on.

Many people know Half Moon Bay by name, if not by reputation. It is a destination along the coast. We almost always just drive through it on our way to someplace else. It turns out the traffic jam that turned a 20-minute drive into 2-hours wasn't traffic or construction related, just people getting to HMB for the pumpkin festival. Man, that was kind of annoying. But - wow - were there a lot of pumpkins in town! We just kept rolling, now north along Hwy 1 to Moss Beach.

Sunday found us at our go-to church when we are in the Bay: City Church San Francisco. (more on this at Te decet hymnus) Chris had arranged for us to take an architectural walking tour in the afternoon. We had some time between church and the tour, so we did some walking on our own, with the kind of people-watching that one gets so well in San Francisco.

The tour was fantastic, and deserving of its own post. Here I'll just give a shout-out to guide Rick at San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour. And um, Rick is that organization. Excellent and most highly recommended. Not to mention that we had a picture perfect afternoon for our leisurely, artistic, informative walk in the financial district.

It's hard to get enough of San Francisco on foot, so we walked even more - along the Embarcadero and through the Ferry Building - before catching BART to head home. It was two beautiful days in a place that is not Chicago but could be home. If only.

21 October 2012

First Fortnight of Folly

. . . beginning a bi-weekly report on self-imposed unemployment, scholarship, and vocational exploration . . .

Two weeks ago was my last day as pastor for worship and music at College Church in Wheaton. The morning service plan was not out of the ordinary for the church, but the services were fraught with significance for me, my Karen, and not a few of the musicians. Quite unexpectedly, and spontaneously, this video was made. I am proud of it not for its recognition of me (not to say I don't appreciate it - I do!), but for the beautiful singing of the choir.

Karen, for her part, noted wryly that the last word she sang in the choir at College Church was: “death.”

And these weeks have been a kind of death. Not to be melodramatic about it. This morning, walking on the Atlantic beach before “tuning in” our church on the internet, our conversation turned to reflection not unlike the “what ifs” that accompany one of the stages of grief. Grief. It’s not an inappropriate term for it.

We’ve had a couple of busy weeks since the congregation bid us a warm and thankful good-by in the evening service and reception. At that point, I was 6 weeks into the fall semester, and already behind by one week in a course I added the day after I submitted my resignation. I had a lot of catching up to do. We took a hastily planned weekend trip to visit son Chris in San Francisco; which was necessary and right in every respect, but which also put me two days behind in my studies. I returned to a week with 3 short papers due, and at the end of which I would take a 2-hour final exam online. That test was at the end of our first day of a long-planned vacation to Florida. (“Fall break” is after all a perquisite of being a student again!)

And after that exam, I was at the same time relieved at having survived the week, and confronted with the reality that here I sit unemployed, with a rightfully and reasonably concerned wife, facing months of un- or under-employment, and no known prospect of full time vocational work to follow this potentially hare-brained  educational scheme.

I began a journal today.

08 October 2012

Down the road we go

Look at that
Look at this
Drop a stone in the abyss
Then walk away and know that anything can happen
Just like that
Just like this

My Karen and I have been standing with our toes at the edge of a precipice for weeks now. And prior to that, edging toward this place. Today we have finally dropped the stone into the abyss. Anything can happen.

This adventure begins on a path that is pretty clearly marked: finish my theology degree. But then it sort of peters out. At the moment there's no clear map, and while I have a compass it can only tell me where true north is. As there is no specific destination, I guess we're just going north for now.

Ask somebody to love you, takes a lot of nerve. 

No way I'd take this first step without my Karen. Just to be clear, she's the one with nerve.

Come awake, come alive
Common sense, we survive
Then hey, hey, down the road we go
You might learn something
Yeah, you never know
But anyway, you’ve got to go

Thankful today for being awake, being alive with this girl at this time of life. And it's true, we might learn something, you never know. But in any case we're not alone, here on the road or standing at the abyss.

Jesus, still lead on, till our rest is won,
Heavenly leader, still direct us,
Still support, console, protect us,
Till we safely land in our fatherland.

"Look at That" by Paul Simon, (c) 1999
"Jesus Still Lead On" by Nicholas L. von Zinzendorf (1721)