#WeekendCoffeeShare: Guess Who’s Back edition

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If we were having coffee … well, I’d be really confused, because it’s 7:15, and what the hell are we having coffee for at 7:15 on a Sunday night when I have to be back at work tomorrow?  But I was gonna write this post this morning, and it was going to be my probably-not-actually-long-awaited return to Weekend Coffee Share, which I haven’t participated in in forever.  So it’s still a WCS post and to hell with making sense.

So.  If we were having coffee, first I’d tell you about this book I started yesterday, and the reason I didn’t get a post up this morning is that I couldn’t put the damn book down until I was finished with it.  Do you like Sherlock Holmes?  Of course you do.  So you need to check out A Study in Honor, by Claire O’Dell, which is a Sherlock Holmes story, only it’s set in the future after the Second Civil War (Watson is still a veteran, and in fact has pretty bad PTSD) and Holmes and Watson are both queer black women.

I read it in about three hours– maybe an hour before bed last night and another two this morning, and I’m already reloading Amazon over and over again waiting for a sequel.  Go check it out, it’s great.

After that we might get into talking about religion a bit, believe it or not.  One of my oldest friends was in town this weekend with her three kids– her oldest daughter is twelve, her middle child (the only boy) is eight, putting him more or less at my son’s age, and her youngest, another daughter, is five.  We went to the zoo the first day they were in town and took them over to look around on Notre Dame’s campus the next day which, believe it or not, was the first time I’d ever seen the Grotto or the inside of the Basilica despite having lived in South Bend for 2/3 of my life or so.  The Basilica is absolutely amazing even if you have my, uh, somewhat unorthodox views on Christianity and religion in general– I may be a mean old atheist with a couple of degrees in religious studies, which, believe me, is the worst kind of mean old atheist, but I sure as hell can appreciate me some architecture.

It turns out that they keep docents around to give impromptu tours to the people who randomly wander into the place, and once ours determined that the oldest of the four kids was interested in being an architect she got real interesting real fast.  And then we got to the reliquary, which contains something like sixteen hundred relics of saints, and … man, it has been a minute since I have been around seriously religious people in a context where their serious-religiousness had a chance of playing a major role in the conversation.  And I’m not enough of an asshole to start a fight about this stuff, but I’ll admit it threw me for a hell of a loop when she pointed at one particular ornate cross and stated that it contained all of the following:

  • A piece of Jesus’ manger
  • A piece of the table the Last Supper was eaten at
  • A piece of Jesus’ burial shroud and
  • A fragment of the True Cross

And I had this moment of oh, holy shit, you genuinely believe every word you just said is true, and knew myself to be wholly in the presence of someone who does not view any part of the world the way I do.  Which, don’t get me wrong, is fine.  I don’t care.  She’s explaining her faith to me and my family and my friends and she’s being very very nice about it and frankly I’m in her house and I’m not about to start being a dick about her believing stuff I don’t believe.  You do you, nice lady.  There’s no problem here.

And then my son started talking, and as it turns out Daddy’s Little Empiricist has had absolutely no religious training of any kind at all, and, well, there’s some stuff that we kinda just assumed the wider culture would take care of for us?  I mean, we didn’t tell him about Santa Claus, and he knows all about that, and …

… well, as it turns out my son doesn’t know a god damn thing about Jesus.  And I think this lady has probably been doing her job for a good long time and she’s probably been asked a bunch of stuff and she’s probably had a handful of argumentative old atheists in that basilica on a couple of occasions and she was nonetheless not prepared for my son and his we-stole-him-from-a-South-American-jungle level of Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout Jesus.

He can tell you anything about the Avengers, though.

So yeah.  That happened.  How’s the coffee?

Woo Saturday!

scary-easter-bunny-6I sold nearly sixteen thousand moneydollars worth of furniture and furniture-related services and accessories at work today.  The boy is at his grandparents’ so that he can do an egg hunt in the morning, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow any pagan bunny nonsense in my house.  I am watching Into the Badlands with my wife and sipping on a very small bottle of moscato.

Yes, I am drinking the alcohols.  Not many of them!  But I never drink the alcohols so this is a bit of an event.

Happy Easter, if that’s your thing.  I don’t have to work tomorrow, so … thanks, Jesus, I guess?

In which I contain multitudes

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I have always been very ambivalent about Santa Claus.  Hell, as a non-Christian I’m ambivalent enough about Christmas, so the idea that I’m compounding celebrating a holiday that’s supposed to be about the birth of a divine being who I don’t believe in with lying to my kid about a white dude who drops presents down the chimney just hasn’t ever sat well with me.  I don’t like lying to my son– and yes, I think telling your kids about Santa is lying to them, unless you also want to explain why Santa seems to like wealthy white kids more than everybody else.  But I’m not so opposed to the idea of Santa Claus that I’m stomping on it, so to speak.  The position my wife and I have evolved over the years is that we simply don’t talk about Santa.  My mom can tell the boy whatever she likes; he can absorb whatever messages about Santa he wants from the wider culture.  Hell, I’ll even read A Visit from St. Nicholas to him on Christmas Eve if he wants, like my parents used to do with me.  I let him read Captain Underpants and don’t make a big stink about him not being real; why should Santa be any different?  My policy has simply been to neither confirm nor deny, and I don’t write “from Santa” on presents that we bought him– the “from” tag on all his presents is just left blank.  He hasn’t seemed to notice that Santa seems to think he lives at his Grandma’s house.  And we’ve never done the “go to the mall and sit on Santa’s lap” thing either.  Which, honestly, as I’m typing this, I gotta admit I regret just a little bit.

So last week he told my wife that one of the kids in his class was telling everyone that Santa wasn’t real.  My wife, caught by surprise, fell back on our usual “What do you think?” shtick and eventually he dropped it, or so we thought.  This morning, as we were getting in the car to go to school, he ambushed me with the same question, and seemed frustrated that I reacted the same way.  He is 6, and in kindergarten, just so you can properly contextualize this if you’d like.

And then he said something that really caught me by surprise, which was that he thought that this other kid was “ruining Christmas” and “taking all the fun out of everything” by telling the other kids that Santa wasn’t real.  I pushed back on this as gently as I could– if Santa wasn’t real, does that mean that the tree and the lights and the presents and the cookies and the family stuff weren’t fun anymore?  Surely the fat white guy isn’t the most important part, right?  He didn’t answer, but I could see him thinking about it.

And then my reaction surprised me, because I found myself more than a little bit pissed at this kid, and by extension this kid’s parents.  I think the family in question is at least nominally Muslim, as I’m pretty sure they’re ethnically Pakistani, but at any rate they’re from that area (the boy may or may not have been born here; I’m certain the parents weren’t) and while in general they’ve struck me as more or less secular people they’re definitely from an area where Christianity isn’t the majority religion.  So, okay, your kid got raised with no Santa.  You told him the truth.  Cool.  But maybe you go ahead and make sure your kid knows that showing everyone else the light isn’t so much the way to go?  My son is friends with this kid, and he’s visibly upset with him for, again, “ruining Christmas.”  And if my son decides that the boy is right about that, then I’m going to have a talk with him about not screwing the shit up for the other kids.

And I gotta admit, I’m thisclose to dropping an email to either my kid’s teacher or this other family (our school makes sure everyone has everyone else’s emails) and in the most polite way I can manage to phrase it suggesting that they tell this other kid to knock it off.

That’s probably in utter contradiction to everything in the first couple of paragraphs.  Do I care?  I dunno.  I care enough that I wrote this to try and hash it out in my head, and I probably need to be talked out of contacting any of the other adults involved– which, again, I promise I’d do politely.

“Eventually ruining Christmas for him was my job, dammit” is not the most persuasive line of argument, after all.

Blech.  Parenting is stupid.

In lieu of anything else to say

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I haven’t been getting a ton of comments lately, so I’m kinda hoping everybody pitches in for this one, since as an atheist I’m not really qualified to comment on it.  Help me out, I’m confused.

A spot of context, in case you don’t recall: the local AAA baseball team is the South Bend Cubs.  I have been to a couple of games but I can’t name a single player.  (Actually, I can’t name a single active baseball player at any level, but that’s not entirely relevant.)

There is a church near my home that I drive by every day on my way to and from work.  Hell, it’s on a main thoroughfare, so I probably drive past it something like 70% of the time I leave my house.  And there’s a big sign out in front of the church– wood, attached to what appear to be 12 x 12 beams, so they intend for it to be at least semi permanent– that declares the place the “church home” of the South Bend Cubs, including using their logo, which something makes me doubt they got permission for.  The sign specifically names two players and their numbers; I don’t know if any more than those two attend that church and I’m not sure that two players really constitute an official team endorsement either.

So here’s the question: there have to be some at least moderately religious people who read this blog.  Assuming you were already Catholic, is there any universe where this sort of “rub elbows with very minor local celebrities” advertisement might entice you to check a church out?  And, as a secondary question, am I right in feeling that calling these two players out and yelling HEY THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN FIND THESE GUYS ON SUNDAY MORNING to literally everyone who drives by is kind of rude?

So um okay

My mother-in-law passed away in January.  She died of… well, everything.   That’s both less disrespectful and closer to the truth than you might believe; my father-in-law is fond of saying she had everything but cancer, and the way he describes it never fails to bring this to mind:

My wife’s family, for reasons that have never been clear to me, does not seem to be overly fond of winter funerals.  This is, I think, the third family member of hers who has passed since we were married, all of them in the dead of winter, and each and every one had a spring funeral.  There has thus far been no service of any kind, and the first formal acknowledgment of her death is going to be May 20th when her ashes are interred.  In, uh, this:

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She went to see her dad today, and he showed her this; her ashes are inside of it (presumably inside some sort of urn and not, like, poured out all over the bottom of the thing) at this very moment and in fact were there when the picture was taken, but he’d decided he wanted to inter a few other things with her– among which were a crucifix, which my son took one look at and excitedly declared to be a “trophy.”  He, being the eminently practical and utterly unsentimental person that he is, looked around the house and decided that this plastic goddamned cooler was the most size-appropriate object he had for the items he wanted to bury with her.  And the decision was made; this was to be her eternal resting place, tradition and propriety be damned.

My wife enquired as to whether the gravediggers knew that they were providing a hole for a cooler and not a (presumably) much smaller urn.  He, of course,  had already made all of the appropriate arrangements.  I guarantee he measured the damn thing and sent them precise metric dimensions.  Guarantee it.  He’s going to do some work in the next few days to get it glued shut and waterproofed (and judging from the way the man wraps Christmas presents, life on Earth will be extinct before water gets inside this thing) and that’s going to be it.

The great part of all this, of course, is that absolutely no one can argue with me when I insist on burying her father’s ashes inside an empty bottle of Beefeater gin when he dies. He’ll appreciate it.