Saturday, May 22, 2010


Ladies and gentlemen of the interwebs, I'm taking a break.

I am officially on vacation from now until the 1st of June. I have no plans to go anywhere or do anything incredibly special during this upcoming week. The only plan I have in mind is to relax a great deal.

Now, I'm not saying that keeping up with this blog on a daily basis is particularly stressful. But I really haven't taken a break from it in nearly three years. I know, over recent months, I have had occasional days with no new material, but I've still been pretty good about getting something on here regularly.

To my 14 regular readers, don't worry. I'll be back. Once June arrives I'll return with all new legendary adventures, delusions of grandeur, and maybe even a pleasant continuation to the continuing saga of the Girl in the White SUV.

Have a great week, kids. And hey, try not to miss me too much.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Perils of Pizza Delivery, Part 5

Tonight, an interesting thing happened on my last delivery of the evening. I took a couple pizzas to a man who was waiting for me on his front porch when I arrived. Several of the neighborhood children were riding bikes and scooters up and down the street. As I've mentioned before, kids often get excited when they see the pizza guy driving through the neighborhood.

These children were stopped in front of my customer's house and they were practically singing my praises. I looked at the man as I handed him his pizza and remarked that I just don't get this kind of attention on my day job. He asked me what I did during the day, and I told him I was a bank teller. This prompted him to ask which bank I work for. I told him, and then he informed me that he works for a rival bank.

I studied him carefully. "Does this mean that we have to fight to the death now?"

He laughed for a brief moment, then his face lost all expression. We both backed away slowly, neither of us taking our eyes off the other. I reached my car safely, then peeled out of the neighborhood much faster than I should have, especially considering the children playing in the streets.

This just goes to show us, you have to be careful, because you just never know who you'll run into out there.

Question of the Week: 2000

Would you like to have your rate of physical aging slowed by a factor of thirty so as to give you a life expectancy of about 2,000 years?

No, I wouldn't. Unless it was a deal that all my friends could get in on too. I would probably get pretty depressed after the first 100 years when all the people around me started dying off.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Single Guy and the Missed Opportunity

Once again, it had been over a week since the Single Guy had seen the Girl in the White SUV. She was still coming to the bank, she just happened to be there on the Single Guy's day off. All day on Tuesday, he felt good about his chances of seeing her that day. He knew that it was only a matter of time until her car came back through his lane.

And so he was sitting in his car enjoying a late lunch. It was a nice day and actually felt pretty good outside, so he was enjoying some fresh air while he ate his sandwich. And then, in his rear-view mirror, he saw the white SUV drive around the corner and pull up to his window. No, she didn't pull up to his car window. She pulled up to his teller window. Sadly, however, he was still eating his lunch and was not manning his station.

Someone else ran her transaction that day. Someone who had volunteered to go to lunch second, in order for the Single Guy to go ahead and eat first. So, yet another day passed for the Single Guy and the Girl in the White SUV. Another opportunity was missed. The Single Guy's chance to have his day made had driven away. He didn't cry. Much.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Tomorrow's gonna be another one of those long days. I'm not sure that I'll feel like getting around to writing a post for the blog. So I'm putting this on here tonight.

When I was a kid, I remember a song called "Arms of Love," sung by Amy Grant. It was written by her, Gary Chapman, and Michael W. Smith. The words of this song are an incredible encouragement to me. I hope they're encouraging to anyone out there reading them.

Lord I'm really glad you're here.
I hope you feel the same when you see all my fear,
And how I fail,
I fall sometimes.
It's hard to walk in shifting sand.
I miss the rock and find there's nowhere left to stand,
I start to cry.
Lord, please help me raise my hands so you can pick me up.
Hold me close.
Hold me tighter.

I have found a place where I can hide.
It’s safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who’s helped throughout a storm,
You keep me warm
In your arms of love.

Storms will come and storms will go.
Wonder just how many storms it takes until
I finally know
You’re here always.
Even when my skies are far from gray,
I can stay;
Teach me to stay there,

In the place I’ve found where I can hide.
It’s safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who’s helped throughout a storm,
You keep me warm
In your arms of love.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I've mentioned before that this is my least favorite installment in the Harry Potter series of books. That doesn't mean I think it's a bad book. There's just so much else that happens in the other books that take my attention away from this one.

It's Harry's second year at Hogwarts, and once again, it isn't a typical school year. But I guess at a school that teaches wizardry, typical isn't the word you'd use to describe any school year. This time around, Harry is still being tormented by his muggle family while on his summer vacation. But before he even has the chance to get back to the school, he meets a house-elf named Dobby, who is desperately trying to keep Harry from returning to Hogwarts.

Dobby's fear is that there is a horrible plot to make bad things happen within the school. Dobby's fears are realized when things do begin to happen at the school. Not long after the start of term, Harry begins to hear threatening voices inside the walls. A threatening note is found on a wall written in red paint. The caretaker's cat is found to be petrified. And this is just the start of things.

All of these events show that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. According to legend, the Chamber is said to hold a powerful monster that follows the commands of the heir of Slytherin. Slytherin being one of the founders of the school, who held the strict view that Hogwarts should only accept students of pure wizard blood. Slytherin's pet would be used to purge the school of any non-pure blood students.

Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, spend the better part of the school year discovering what secrets the Chamber actually holds. In the end, Harry emerges triumphant, once again defeating his nemesis, Lord Voldemort.

The book itself carries a number of positive messages. For one, it warns against the dangers of prejudice. For another, it speaks to the importance of loyalty. Most importantly, I think the book shows that our choices are what determine what sort of person we will become. Harry struggles a great deal with this issue in particular. Harry Potter has an, as yet, unexplained connection to Lord Voldemort. This connection scares him, because it has given him a number of his enemies traits. But Professor Dumbledore reminds him that, even though he may share some similarities with Voldemort, Harry has chosen to walk a more virtuous path, rather than take an easier, darker route.

All in all, it's a decent story. But I'm really looking forward to the next one. Prisoner of Azkaban is my absolute favorite of the seven novels. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXVIII

Not long ago my manager found out that I like to draw. Once he had seen an example of my work, he decided to make me the official whiteboard artist.

The whiteboards inside the branch are used to advertise various specials that the bank happens to be offering at a particular time. So for the last couple of months, I've been in charge of decorating these whiteboards.

My first board advertised the bank's website. To help illustrate the ad, I drew a picture of Schroeder from Peanuts. But instead of sitting in front of his piano, I had him sitting in front of a laptop computer.

My second board wasn't anything special. It just advertised a special CD rate that we had going on. I couldn't think of anything clever to draw with that one, just a bunch of dollar signs and some arrows denoting the passage of time. Really not special.

Next I was commissioned to draw something advertising our amazing auto loans. So I drew Mater from the Disney/Pixar film Cars.

My current whiteboard is simply a question asking our customers where they work. And next to those big, bold letters, there's a picture of Dilbert. You'd be surprised how easy Dilbert is to draw.

All that is to say that it's really annoying doing these boards. Not because I don't like to draw. I love it actually. The annoying thing is the customers that feel the need to touch the boards and erase the dry-erase marker that make up the words and images. Really, it isn't so much the customers that do it, but their ADHD kids that they are unable to control in public.

Today as I was doing my job and running transactions for people at the drive through window, I heard a very small child laughing near the whiteboard. Her father was at the teller counter being helped by our manager. Suddenly I heard the unmistakable squeaking sound that small fingers make when they're rubbing back and forth across a dry erase marker board. "Look, daddy! I'm drawin'!"

I was glad I had my back turned, 'cause I probably had a pretty nasty look on my face. I know what most of you are thinking. I shouldn't get mad at a little kid for just being a little kid. You'll probably tell me it's my own fault for keeping the board displayed in a place that's accessible to small children. But does that mean I don't have the right to be annoyed that I have to redraw the whiteboard all over again? 'Cause I really was. Annoyed.

Stupid kid...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Workin' At the Car Wash

In a couple of weeks, two of my friends, Eddie and Daniel, will be flying out to Slovakia for a mission trip in which they'll be sharing Christ while teaching kids how to play American sports. The trip is being done through the seminary, but these guys also needed to raise a great deal of the money needed to make the trip. That's where today's car wash came in.

Got up early this Saturday morning and picked up the two oldest Greene boys, who volunteered their services washing cars. We drove out to the Advance Auto Parts and began setting up for what was bound to be a long, hot day filled with lots of hard work. And it was a hot day and it was filled with lots of hard work, but I can't really say it felt like a long day.

It was actually a lot of fun. I hadn't taken part in a car wash fundraiser like this since I was in college. Back then, we, too, were raising money for summer missions. But this was in Bluefield, VA, a town that rarely reaches temperatures above 90 degrees, even in the hottest of summers. That's not how things are in Raleigh, NC, where today's high was said to be 91.

Honestly I didn't even notice the heat until later in the work day. Really, the only reason I started to notice the heat was because of the amazing sun burn that had begun forming on my face, neck, and arms. That was the heat that eventually started to get to me. But it's nothing that I haven't faced before.

By the end of the day, and at final tally of money raised, Eddie and Daniel had collected over $2000 for their trip to Slovakia. Now, I've only done this car wash thing a few times, but I've never heard of anyone collecting quite that much after only four hours of washing. Pretty amazing, right?

So over the next few weeks, if you pray and you happen to think about them, say a prayer for Eddie, Daniel, and the team they're heading to Eastern Europe with. Pray for their safe travels. Pray for the people whose lives they'll touch.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Question of the Week: In the Bag

You are walking down the street one night and a car comes screeching around the corner. You see blue lights flashing in the distance behind the car. Out of the car's window flies a bag that lands in some bushes just ahead of you. Curiosity gets the better of you and you look in the bag. It's filled with cash which has obviously been obtained by illegal means. What do you do?

There's a part of me that thinks that my fight or flight instinct would kick in and I'd leave the bag for someone else to find and deal with. However, I know the right thing to do would be to flag down the police that are quickly headed my way. I'm sure there would have to be some explaining on my part about how I was just an innocent bystander who's trying to do the right thing. It'd be nice if there was some kind of reward for doing the right thing, but I guess really, doing the right thing is supposed to be its own reward. As long as that money gets back to where it's supposed to be.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How Super Mario Bros. Changed the Face of Western Civilization

On this week's episode of Glee there was a throw away line mentioning a character's constant argument that Super Mario Bros. changed Western Civilization. It got me thinking, has Super Mario Bros. changed the face of Western culture?

I think we'll just focus on the original Super Mario installment. It's the one you got with your very first Nintendo Entertainment System. There were crappy graphics and a simple story. You play as Mario (or Luigi if you happened to be player 2), a mustached plumber who makes his way across 8 incredibly similar worlds trying to save Princess Toadstool. Every time you beat the bad guy at the end of each castle, you're basically told you've been barking up the wrong tree.

So you repeat your actions over and over again, trying to succeed in saving a princess who just isn't there. Now, yes, at the end, you do save the princess. But then you're told to push a button, at which point you'll go back to World 1-1, where there's a greater challenge. Really, some of the enemies just change and move a little faster. Big challenge.

The point is, this game seems to be the very definition of insanity. You're performing the same tasks again and again hoping for a different result: finding the princess, when really you just keep finding an anthropomorphic mushroom.

So maybe that is a reflection of modern culture. The majority of us go about our lives, day after day, doing the same thing over and over again. And what do we achieve at the end of the day? Do we get to beat the bad guy? Do we get to save the princess? Or do we come across a sign saying "the princess is in another castle"?

There are days when we perform our familiar actions and we're met with the same result when all is said and done, but we keep on with it. Because we keep hoping that those other days will come about that show us that we finally reached the final stage and we get a different outcome. Sure, we push a button and we're taken right back to the beginning where we face different challenges, but we keep pushing forward.

Super Mario may not have changed Western Civ, but it may just be a good picture of what society looks like.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I've decided to delve back into my personal library and re-read the entire Harry Potter series. I'm doing this for two reasons. One, because I don't have a lot of money. Why should that matter? Well, I'm the kind of person that likes to buy the books he reads. I know that's kind of ridiculous. But the thing is, I always kind of envisioned growing up and having a room in my home that I could call my library. Not that I want to have some kind of palatial estate with a library, a conservatory, and secret passages. Okay, I want secret passages. Anyway, I'm kind of broke more often than not, so I can't really afford to buy any new books. The other reason is that the final movies in the series are coming out soon, so I'd like to be reminded of how awesome the stories are before I pay money to be disappointed by the film adaptations of the last book.

That being said, I re-read the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This is the book that started it all. Kids across the country and around the world were introduced to Harry Potter, the boy who lived. We, the Muggles, learned about the world of magic and about Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. We learned that the magic folk were terrorized for years by an evil dark wizard known as (name deleted for security reasons).

What? Security reasons? Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself. Voldemort! His name was Voldemort. If Harry Potter can say the name, so can I! Mostly because they're all fictional characters and I'm not afraid of things that don't exist.

Anyway, Harry's this kid who was kind of given a raw deal. As an infant, his parents were killed by Voldemort. And the dark wizard tried to kill Harry as well, but for some reason, he couldn't. So Harry survived with only a lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead to remind him of the night that he was too young to even remember. Once this happens, Harry is sent to live with his aunt and uncle, who treat him like a thing, not a person.

Ten years later, Harry learns the truth about who he is. And he learns that the evil wizard that killed his family and attempted to kill him is still out there and trying to regain his power. But Harry, being the hero of the story, manages to stop Voldemort from succeeding in his evil plans.

So it's a pretty good story. It's got action, it's got drama, it's got humor. It's quite entertaining. And you know, I really don't think it's as evil as some people like to believe. It's pretty much fictional. Kind of like The Wizard of Oz. And there are six books that follow this one. The next one is my least favorite of the series. I guess I'll have to choke my way through it though.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2

I remember when the first Iron Man was released a couple years ago. I remember thinking that I wasn't too thrilled to go out and see it. And that was just because I didn't know much about Iron Man in general. I've said it before, I'm a DC, so when it comes to the Marvel super heroes, I'm usually at a loss. Sure, I've seen enough Spider-Man and X-Men growing up that I get the gist of their stories. But to me, Iron Man was just never one of those more popular characters.

And then I saw the movie and was pretty much blown away. I'm not sure I can say that it was better than the first couple Spider-Man flicks. Those were really good. But Jon Favreau did a great job directing and Robert Downey, Jr. was the perfect fit for Tony Stark. So when the inevitable sequel was being made, I had to fight back my excitement.

See, I don't like to get excited over sequels anymore. More often than not, I end up being let down. Because, let's face it, for every Godfather Part II you have a Godfather Part III. That is to say, for every great sequel, there is inevitably the sequel that is just as horribly disappointing.

Iron Man 2 did not disappoint. I won't sit here and claim I thought it was better than the first, but it may have been just as good. It may help that I'm not familiar with much of Iron Man's history or stories, so any potential movie plot would be a complete surprise for me. I don't know how Tony Stark is supposed to interact with Pepper Potts or Colonel Rhodes or Nick Fury. So any of his actions and reactions are completely new to me.

This time around we're introduced to a new villain, Whiplash. I don't think he's ever actually named that in the film, he may only be known as Ivan Vanko, a typical bad guy with a typical rationalization for his villainy. And this time, Tony gets a little help from his friends at SHIELD and from Col. Rhodes, who dons an armored suit to become War Machine.

If you enjoyed the first movie, you'll like this one. It's packed with the same kind of action and humor that made the original a success. And there are little hints at things to come. We catch sight of Captain America's shield and (if you stay until after the credits) Thor's hammer. I think it's safe to say that the Avengers will be assembling at a theater near you soon enough.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Oz had been facing some dark days for quite some time. It had been 12 years since little Dorothy Gale dropped into Munchkinland. 12 years since she took that fateful trip down the Yellow Brick Road, meeting friends and enemies alike. It had been 12 years since the Lion first began to face his fears in order to help a stranded little girl.

Even now, 12 years after receiving courage from the Wizard, the Lion was still occasionally referred to as "Cowardly." He couldn't understand it. Of course he knew that the Wizard had been a fraud all along. He knew that what he had given to the Lion was no more useful as courage than the brain he had given the Scarecrow, or the heart he had given the Tin Woodsman. But the Lion had since proven himself again and again. He was far from cowardly.

And though the Lion was a modest creature, he thought it would have been nice for the nickname "Courageous" to catch on. But it's not as if he could start something like that himself. Nicknames are given by the people around you, not by oneself.

But it's not as if he surrounded himself with many people these days. It was difficult to know who to trust. It's not that he was afraid to trust anyone. But he was smart enough to heed the words of the Scarecrow, who was much wiser than he. "You must be careful who you trust, Lion," the Scarecrow had said. "You're out there in the jungle, among all manner of creatures. They can't all be trusted to fight for what's right in Oz."

And so the Lion kept to himself. He heard whispers over the years. He knew that Ozma was no longer on the throne. He knew that the Nome King had finally usurped her rule and was now acting as a tyrant in the Emerald City. He knew that the good people of Oz had been living in fear for several years. They feared what would happen if they tried to revolt. The good people of Oz feared what would happen if they tried to find Ozma and restore her to her rightful throne.

The Lion knew that he and his friends would not be enough to remove the Nome King and his dark army. Sure, they had plenty of good people on their side: the Scarecrow and Tin Man, of course, the Hungry Tiger, Tik-Tok, the mechanical man, and Jack Pumpkinhead. Most importantly, this small band of rebels were being secretly led by Ozma herself. But he knew the key to their eventual success was Dorothy Gale.

Dorothy had not been seen in Oz in nearly a decade. He knew that the little girl must have grown up and forgotten about her friends in this magical land. But she was needed. The Lion had to find that girl and remind her about just how real the Land of Oz really is. It was a mission that would take a great deal of courage, something that this Courageous Lion certainly did not lack.

He stared into the darkness of the jungle... his jungle... and he set his feet on the path that lay before him. He was walking the path that would eventually lead him to Kansas. There was so much riding on finding Dorothy. He knew that if he failed, all would be lost.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Friday, May 07, 2010

Question of the Week: Favor

Do you usually make a special effort to thank someone who does you a favor? How do you react when you aren't thanked for going out of your way for someone?

I'm pretty sure I generally thank someone several times if they've done me a solid. But if I'm not thanked for something I've done, I don't really think of it as that big a deal. There have been times when I've internally scoffed at a lack of gratitude on someone else's part, but I get over it pretty quick.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXVII

There are a number of things that I'd rather be doing today. The easiest and most obvious choice would be to just be sitting at home doing nothing. I have a very comfortable overstuffed sofa that I could easily go right back to sleep on. I have a pretty substantial television, on which I could enjoy any number of daytime programs, including but not limited to: reruns of sitcoms, cheesy judge shows, The Price is Right, and, of course, soap operas. I also own a Playstation 3 and recently bought the latest Final Fantasy installment, a game that I have had no time to really play.

But there are other things that I would rather be doing today. Things that have nothing to do with being at work. Things that have nothing to do with being at home. As my assistant manager mentioned, having my eyeballs scooped out with rusty spoons would be one of them. True, it would be one of the less pleasant options, but it would be a good option nonetheless. Other activities include having elaborate dental surgery, being tortured for information that I don't have by none other than Jack Bauer, being given thousands of paper cuts over most of my body and then being forced to bathe in lemon juice, or going to a circus and being subjected to the terrors that are clowns.

Instead I'm here. I'm dealing with customers that don't care that I'm here to help them. They're only interested in complaining whenever something goes wrong. I'm dealing with ridiculous expectations that are coming down from the powers that be, adding to the stress of a job that I'm already underpaid and overqualified for. I know there will be moments in my day where I will want to not only destroy my sometimes-inoperable-computer, but will also be tempted to find a sledgehammer and just start taking down the building brick by brick.

However, there may be one bright spot in my day. It's something that I try to look forward to each day that I'm forced to make my 45-minute commute. That would be the Girl in the White SUV. Though I realize she doesn't come to my drive through window on a daily basis, the chance that today is one of those days is sometimes, if not always, just enough to keep me coming back here. And so I chain myself to my window for my daily sentence of 8 hours in hell. All for the hope of a smile and an awkward feeling at some point between 2 and 4 in the afternoon.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Single Guy and the Business Card

Another week had passed since the Single Guy chickened out. The Girl in the White SUV hadn't been by the bank in all that time, so he had time to think. Really, it was more like he had time to dwell.

In that time, the Single Guy consulted friends and co-workers on what the best course of action would be. It was mutually decided upon that it would be inappropriate to just ask her out at the drive through window. In his initial letter to the Girl in the White SUV, he had told her that he didn't want to put her on the spot or embarrass her in any way.

So the Single Guy took one of his business cards and flipped it over. On the back, he simply wrote, "Would you like to have coffee with me sometime? My treat..." and then he left instructions to call or text, followed by his cell phone number. And then he waited.

She finally came by the bank. They exchanged the normal pleasantries while the Single Guy ran her transaction. Once the work was done, he took her receipt and attached the altered business card using a paper clip. He passed her the receipt and card and wished her well as she once again drove away.

And then the Single Guy waited again. He had placed the ball right back into the court of the Girl in the White SUV. It was up to her now to decide if picking up the phone and calling or texting would be worth the cup of coffee. It was time to learn if she was truly interested in the Single Guy or if she was merely flattered by the letter he had sent so many weeks ago.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Button Button

I'm not a big believer in having an over-abundance of clothes. In fact, I'd really like to get my closet down to a point where I have enough short and long-sleeved shirts to get me through two weeks. I run my dress shirts for work on a constant cycle. And my pants? Well, I have a limited number of those.

I'm about to admit to something that a few of you out there will think is odd or even disgusting. But see, I don't think it is. I absolutely do not believe that a pair of pants needs to be washed after only one wearing. Thus, I only have two pairs of jeans. I only have two pairs of khakis. And I have one pair of black slacks. That's it. Oh, and a variety of shorts. We are approaching summer, after all.

On a side note, I also use the same bath towel for a full week before ditching it in the hamper. I'm clean when I use it to dry off. What's the point of using multiple towels?

Anyway, pair my adherence to the recycling of pants with my dislike of spending money on pretty much anything, I wear my clothes until they wear out. And this is what happened to me last week.

For a while I had noticed that the material in one of my pairs of khaki pants had begun to wear thin. But I figured I could still get some good usage out of them since the thin parts were in unnoticeable places. Then, on Friday, the unthinkable occurred.

The key button that held the pants together popped off. This is not a comment on my waistline. In fact, I've lost weight since the first of the year, thank you very much. No, the thread holding the button had just deteriorated and lost its hold on that important plastic disc.

So I spent the better part of Friday wearing pants that were held in place only by a belt (which has also seen better days).

We have a sewing kit at work. It has plenty of thread in it. Six spools of various colors. However, there are no needles in said sewing kit. Not a lot of help when one loses and important button.

Guess it's time to buy some new pants.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


There's no one still alive that witnessed the catastrophic event that took away our planet's moon. Believe me, plenty of the witnesses died that very day. The rest went on to lead normal lives and die of old age. Well, it was as normal as things could have gotten after such an apocalyptic tragedy.

I've seen pictures of what the moon once looked like. Full, round, bright, and scarred with craters. I'm sure to most of the people at the time, staring up into the night sky and finding the moon staring back at them was just a commonplace thing. I'm sure people took it for granted that their nights would be lit up by that pale glow. I'm sure they took for granted that the oceans' tides would continue to rise and fall with the lunar cycle.

The truth of what happened so long ago is lost to us now. The plain truth of the matter is that no one was prepared for what happened. The old ones still tell the stories that have been passed down, but even they don't know all the facts. They can't possibly know all the facts. Even they are generations removed from the event.

But they say that something collided with the moon. They say that whatever it was was so large and so powerful that it shattered the moon upon impact. They say that large pieces of the lunar surface eventually rained down on the earth. The panic that set in was immediate. The people ran for shelter from the storm of lunar rocks, but still they knew it was futile. Cities, even nations, were utterly destroyed, either by the debris or by the numerous tidal waves caused by the impacts with the oceans.

Over time, the handful of people that survived picked up the pieces. Civilization started over again, at first, clinging to the remnants of what had gone before. But eventually, the early survivors realized that too was futile.

I'm just a kid who wanders from village to village. I was born into a family of explorers. Like my fathers before me, I search for evidence of the past. I search for pieces of a puzzle, trying to determine exactly what life was like on this planet before the moon was destroyed.

At night, as I walk along our broken roads, I look up at the darkened sky. I see the stars. I see the cloud of dust and debris that encircles our world in the orbit that was once traveled by the moon. I wonder how different my life would be today if that orb still hung there silently shedding its pale light.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Lightning Thief

Many months ago I remember seeing a trailer for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and I thought it looked interesting. Of course, it was just a teaser sort of trailer that really didn't give the viewer much of an idea what the movie would be about. However, just having the word "Olympians" in the title made it intriguing for me.

For as far back as I can remember, I've found the stories of Greek mythology to be fascinating. It could stem from the first time I saw the original Clash of the Titans. I'm honestly not sure where it began. I just always thought the stories were exciting. At some point in high school, we were required to read Edith Hamilton's "Mythology." Of all the required reading that I refused to appreciate at the time, that book may have been the only one I genuinely devoured.

And now, Rick Riordan has introduced the world to a series of new myths. I realize he's not the first to do so, as ancient Greek legends can be found intertwined with a great deal of the culture throughout Western Civilization. This is actually a springboard for Riordan in the first book of the Percy Jackson series, The Lightning Thief, a story that introduces us to the idea that the immortal Greek gods of ancient myth never went away, and that they continued to lend a hand to civilization and influence culture throughout the centuries.

I mentioned seeing the trailer for the movie because that's what got me to pick up the book. It may be a mistake, but I'm generally the type of person who likes to see the movie after reading the source material. I'm sure that just leads me to be disappointed once I pay the price of admission, but it's how I tend to operate. So I got the book. And it sat on my coffee table for several weeks. The film has since left theaters and I now have to wait for the DVD to truly be disappointed.

With the book, there is no disappointment. Riordan does a great job of updating ancient Greek stories to mesh with a modern world. You know how the gods would mingle among the mortals and randomly sire illegitimate children that would become the heroes of many stories? Turns out they still do that. Of course you have your classic names: Hercules, Perseus, George. That's George Washington, by the way, son of Athena. Add to the list another Perseus, or Percy for short.

Percy Jackson was just a typical problem kid with ADHD. He had been expelled from six schools in as many years. He adored his mother and hated his oaf of a step-father. He never knew his real father, who disappeared across the sea not long after his birth. And that was all the 12-year-old Percy really knew about his life. He seemed to have gotten a raw deal. Add to it the fact that suddenly he was being attacked by his algebra teacher on a field trip, who seemed to turn into some kind of leathery monster.

Turns out Percy Jackson was anything but an ordinary problem child. Percy was a demigod (half god/half human). With the help of his protector, Grover (a satyr in disguise), he makes his way to Camp Half-Blood where he's taught how to be a proper hero and discovers for himself that he is a son of Poseidon, the sea god. He forms an unsteady friendship with Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, and Luke, a son of Hermes. Soon after he is claimed by his true father, he is sent on a quest, with the aid of Grover and Annabeth, to stop a war among the gods over the theft of Zeus' master lightning bolt.

It's not an easy thing to do as Percy soon realizes. They meet several of the great monsters of myth: Medusa, Cerberus, the Furies. They even tussle with Ares, the god of war. Percy performs his quest and uncovers more than a few secrets along the way. All in all, it's a good read with plenty of action to keep the pages turning.

I won't sit here and say that it's another Harry Potter to keep kids coming back to books, though I think that's what the people at 20th Century Fox would like it to be. But it does contain a lot of the same sorts of pulls that J.K. Rowling's book series had. You've got a group of young kids risking their lives for the greater good. You've got some magic and intrigue. And in the background you have a dark puppet master pulling strings who remains hidden from the view of the reader.

I think it's great that young readers have these kinds of books to keep them interested in something other than television and video games. Not that I'm knocking TV or Playstation, they're fine in moderation. I just don't remember having stories like this to read when I was in that "young reader" age group. Maybe I wasn't paying attention when I was that age. Those of you out there who are my age, did we have books like this 15 or 20 years ago? I look at the young adult section at the bookstore and come across the Harry Potters, the Twilights, and the numerous clones of these phenomena. What did we have back in the day?

Anyway, The Lightning Thief was a good read and I look forward to the next book in the series, The Sea of Monsters. Apparently Percy goes looking for the golden fleece. Didn't Jason and the Argonauts already find that?