Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Big Trouble, Right Here in Centerville

It took me just over four weeks to get around to it, but I finally saw my siblings Steve and Biz and their fellow castmates put on the great American musical The Music Man at Rodgers Memorial Theater earlier tonight - on closing night, no less.

The fact that I am related to two of the cast members may make me a bit biased, but I enjoyed the performance a great deal.

Steve played Oliver Hix, a member of the River City school board and barbershop quartet, while Biz (hand-picked for the part by the director, no less) had much of the comic relief in the role of Ethel Toffelmeier, aka Marcellus Washburn's "Shipoopi." There were a handful of other familiar faces among the cast, to boot, including Jan Davis, my My Fair Lady director at RMT, who played the lead role of Professor Harold Hill.

Before tonight, I had previously seen The Music Man performed live on stage only once before - and Steve was part of that production, too. As a high school junior, he played the pivotal role of "River City Dancer #4."

Tonight's performance was no less entertaining than the one I saw at Bountiful High School 11 years ago. Familiar showtunes such as "Seventy-six Trombones," "Pickalittle (Talk-a-Little)," "Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You?", "Marian the Librarian," and, of course, "Shipoopi" were interspersed with many comic moments.

The good people at Rodgers never disappoint, and that endorsement has nothing at all to do with the fact that they also sign my Improv paychecks.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football?!

Football season is upon us once again. Can I get a what-what?

For the last few years, Mike, Jana, Dave, Jessica, Ben, Steve, Biz, Jeff, Mike's BFF Jason, and I have competed together in a family fantasy football league, Pigskin Nation. It has been a fun and also a rather harmless way for us to compete against each other while we enjoy the games of the NFL season as they are played out.

Over the weekend, our annual fantasy football draft was held, as it always is, up at Mike and Jana's home in Layton. This is a win-win situation, because not only do we get our draft taken care of, but Mike cooks a nice BBQ out on the grill, and everybody brings tasty dishes to share, so it amounts to a great meal, as well.

One more thing: Jana used her considerable artistic skills to create a new trophy that will be awarded to each year's overall points winner of the fantasy football league. That person will get his or her name inscribed on the back and will get to hold onto the trophy and brag about it for the rest of that year, until the time comes to pass it along to the next winner.

As you can see from the above photo, that trophy now sits in a prominent place on a shelf in my room. As last year's Pigskin Nation champion, my name was the first inscribed on the back, and I get to hold onto it until at least late December.

I'll try not to let it go to my head.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Dutch Treat

Dutch oven dinners, I have learned through experience, are never to be missed - especially when they're prepared by any one of the good people of my ward.

Such was the case earlier tonight, when Zak and his dad, two of the best Dutch oven cooks I know, single handedly fed a large group of us who showed up at the stake bowery for an elders quorum-sponsored dinner.

(Yes, I feel the need to mention that it was an elders-sponsored activity, as we often tend to get a bad rap - not necessarily undeservedly - for being able to organize events of this caliber and importance.)

The chicken and potatoes were delicious, as were the desserts that followed. And the company, as always, was fantastic, to boot.

Good times were had by all.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Faith, Hope, and Charity . . . and Patience

Today's post amounts to not much more than a spiritual thought, but I felt like posting it regardless.

I've been thinking about patience over the past few days, given that yesterday's elders quorum lesson covered Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf's recent general conference address on the subject, and also because of a conversation I had Thursday with a good friend.

I wish I could claim the thought as my own, but I will make no pretense about doing so. What he shared with me is this:

Patience with God is faith;
Patience with yourself is hope;
Patience with others is charity.

Well, anyway, I thought it was good enough to share.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Growing a Spine

Beginning this next Monday, I will be embarking on a new project: growing a spine.

This is not to say that I don't already have a spine but that the one I have needs some stretching in the right direction.

In a recent post, I wrote a bit about having suffered from lung difficulties in the mission field due to a sharp change in elevation. This is also, not coincidentally, when my back problems began, and I've been seeing a chiropractor regularly or semi-regularly since the week I returned home.

A relatively new technology called spinal decompression - perhaps you've seen the billboards along I-15 or the ads on TV - has been helping a lot of people with chronic back pain, and I recently found out that my own chiropractor has a machine designed to do this very thing.

This is what it looks like:

If it looks eerily like "The Machine" that Westley is attached to in the Pit of Despair in The Princess Bride, then you have noticed the same thing that I have noticed.

At any rate, this machine is designed to (gently) stretch the spine out so that any bulging or otherwise-affected discs of the spine fall back into their natural places. I've already tried it out once before, and I must say - again, referencing Westley - that I found it to be "terribly comfortable," even though it may not look that way.

I'm looking forward to the adventure.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Seven Brides for One Brother

Last night, I ventured to the Murray Ampitheater to see my brother Ben perform in the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

I personally know a handful of women who, for some reason, claim this musical as their F.M.E.W.T.I.N.T.W. (Favorite Musical Ever Written That Is Not Titled Wicked). This fact and the appeal of both country music and the Twilight movies are three mysteries that will never, ever be solved for me in this lifetime.

At any rate, I promised Ben that I would come to see his show with an open mind, even though I once saw the movie version of Seven Brides a few years ago and wanted to shoot staples into my eyes by the time it was over.

Ben played the second-oldest Pontipee brother, Benjamin. Go figure!

As you can see in the below picture, deftly pilfered from Facebook (I forgot to bring my own camera to the performance - oops!), this role required Ben to not only act, sing, and dance but also to learn several circus-worthy acrobatic maneuvers.

Some other random observations from the performance:

- Dancing with blankets and axes never seemed so possible.

- Adam and Milly meet, get engaged, and marry so quickly that you'd think they were BYU students. (rim shot)

- In the sequence when the girls are kidnapped and the townspeople are out looking for them, a helicopter happened to fly above and past the ampitheater. At first, I honestly thought it had been scripted to happen that way. Even so, it was pretty cool!

- On that note, one of the women who is kidnapped - Benjamin's love interest, in fact - is named Dorcas. If your parents had named you Dorcas, you wouldn't object to being kidnapped and carried away to become a wife; you would, in fact, wish for it, if you catch my drift.

- The song "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" must have been the "Baby Got Back" of the '50s.

- The moral of the story, as far as I understood it, is that women will eventually respond positively to being kidnapped.

Well, that's what I got out of it, anyway.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Catch a Falling Star

A couple of nights ago, there was a meteor shower. Perhaps you heard about it on the news?

No, it wasn't a simulated meteor shower at the Clark (or any other) Planetarium; it was a real one. You know, above us - in the sky. In space.

Okay, so I don't know what all of the scientific terms for it are. Science has never been my forte, and I have never been scientifically inclined in any way, shape, or form.

(My eighth-grade science project, for crying out loud, was a cookie taste test. Really. Somehow, I passed Earth Science.)

What I do know is that on this past Thursday night, Mother Nature put on a heckuva great show in the nighttime sky - my first meteor shower. She did not disappoint one bit. It was well worth any of the sleep that I may have lost. (In fact, this may have been of the rare moments in which insomnia has been on my side.)

I saw enough shooting stars and/or meteors that, after a while, I lost track of the count. And I got to enjoy it all with some good company, to boot.

Good things are worth waiting for.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Rules

Recently, a friend of mine has been trying to set me up - the dating kind, not the put-me-in-prison kind - with a friend of his, gently nudging me her way.

I do not not doubt my friend's judgment nor his sincerity. But all he has given me is a name and a phone number.

In the past, this has not been enough ammo to sufficiently equip me to talk to a female stranger out of the blue. In fact, giving a name and a phone number or e-mail address (yes, that has happened, too), patting me on the back, and saying, "Good luck!" has often created some rather disastrous results.

Has this ever led to success for anyone at all?! he shouts into the void, not necessarily directing his comments at any one person in particular.

Trying to set someone up by giving out just a name and a phone number is essentially a way of making something that is already quite uncomfortable - blind dating - all the more uncomfortable and awkward.

Well, it is in my book.

It would be nice to have friends who want to set me up do it personally, meaning that they either accompany us on a double date or arrange some other sort of group get-to-know-ya activity. After that, if I like her, I'll car her; if I don't, then I won't.

Those are The Rules. Thank you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Pass the Parcel" World Cup!

For many years now, one of our fun family traditions has been playing a game called "Pass the Parcel."

Mom grew up with this tradition in England and has since passed it on to us. Much like the title of the game might lead you to believe, we pass around a parcel, made up of various pieces of candy and candy bars wrapped in layers of newspaper, while sitting in a circle. As in "Musical Chairs," we do this to music, and when the music stops, whoever is left holding the parcel is out of the game, but he or she gets to unwrap the next layer of newspaper and wins whichever piece of candy happens to be in that layer.

It's a fun and very competitive game for old and young alike, and the good part of it is that everybody's a winner. (The actual winner, or last person holding the parcel, ends up with two pieces of candy.)

For today's family birthday party, following church, we participated in the largest and longest "Pass the Parcel" game to date, or at least the largest I can remember. With my cousin Scott; his wife, Claudia; and their five kids joining in with us, no fewer than 25 family members took part in this event. That made for a very large parcel but also quite the competitive grudge match.

I would even dare call it a "Pass the Parcel" World Cup match.

When the smoke cleared, torn newspaper and candy wrappings were all over the floor, and body parts were hanging from the ceiling.

Okay, just kidding. Sort of.

When we get serious about "Pass the Parcel," we take no prisoners.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cough Cough, Wheeze Wheeze

For the last couple of days, I've been coughing and wheezing like a chain smoker of 40 or 50 years. As a result, I found myself visiting the good folks down at InstaCare this afternoon.

It turns out that I have what is termed a respiratory infection, something I had not previously been diagnosed with before now.

Part of this is due to Utah's dry, desert climate, and the other part is due to the fact that my lungs have not always been as strong as they could be.

Due to the climate and vegetation in Puerto Rico, where I lived from age 12 through age 14, my doctor diagnosed me with bronchial asthma. And in the mission field, when I was transferred from the relatively flat, sea-level terrain of Lima up to the mountains and hills of Cusco - at an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet - my lungs took a month or so to adjust and reminded me of this fact every day when I had to climb almost any flight of stairs or something akin to it.

So, my point is . . . uhh . . . let me think here for a second (cough, cough). . . .

Well, how about this: Does anybody else 'round here have this kind of problem (respiratory infections)? If so, what do you for them - just grin and bear it, or is there something more I could be doing?

Also, why is this thing I just coughed up starting to crawl out of my palm?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"The Least of These"

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been wearing a new hat: chauffeur.

It all began when I approached and greeted a member of my ward, who was sitting alone in sacrament meeting, with a hello.

Can you give me a ride Tuesday night? was his immediate response - not a hello or a hi in response.

It was not too terrible of an inconvenience to give him a ride that Tuesday night, but then he called me out of the blue the next week, needing two rides in one night - something for which I had to drop what I was doing and miss a significant portion of an activity I wished to be at the whole time.

My initial thought about my increasing chauffeur duties was, "No good deed goes unpunished." My friend didn't seem to want to talk to me when I tried to be friendly to him unless he needed another favor or another ride. But then I reflected on events some more, and my second thought was "the least of these," as in the scripture we all know so well from Matthew 25:40.

In fact, having spent a large portion of my day today editing a work document about autism - something I really did not know that much about until now - I have thought about my friend a lot and have become more and more convinced that he is also autistic and doesn't necessarily know any better (social skills wise) about behaving in certain settings.

Whatever my friend's real situation may be, I know this for sure: There are people out there - some of who are right across the street or next door, as an Area Authority Seventy said at a stake conference I attended a couple of years ago - whose hands hang low and who need our help if we will but look around for them. Whether it's a simple hello, a pat on the back, or a 10-minute ride across town, they crave our fellowship and our attention.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sophomore Slump?

I can't help but shake the feeling lately that the Epistle has been going through a sort of sophomore slump.

Sophomore slump, for those who are not familiar with it, is a sports term for a rough patch many athletes experience early on in their careers.

So, what does that have to do with the Epistle? It's not necessarily a case of writer's block, although that has been a bit of a difficulty for me lately; it's just that I don't want to be blogging for the sake of blogging but to share things that people actually might want to read.

Does that makes sense?

So, I open the matter to you, my loyal readers (all four of you!): What would you like to see more of on the Epistle of Jon? What would you like to see less of? Do you not care one way or the other?

Inquiring minds want to know.