Friday, November 2, 2018

to the two of us, he said "Laku noc!"

As we stood up to go, Angelo came to us and hugged my bride much as a brother would hug his sister.   He and I hugged as brothers might hug and then, very softly to the two of us, he said "Laku noc!"

Had this been the scene at Cafe Pita in Houston, Texas, where I have eaten on occasion with Nenad Bach and others, and had Omer Okanovic, the proprietor, been present, that would have been "normal," and I would not have taken such notice.  (By the way, when you are in Houston, find Omer and eat his lamb shank.)  As it was we were at Baci Restaurant, a premier Italian restaurant on Beach Blvd.  in Huntington Beach, California. I was not expecting any one in an Italian restaurant in California, to say for "Good night" na hrvatskom jeziku "Laku noc."

We learned then that Angelo, a Tuscan by birth, had once been a seaman aboard boats which plied the Adriatic.  Zadar had once been one of his favorite cities.   I tried to share a fish stew recipe only to watch his hands make exactly  the motions how you gently shake the pan and do not stir.   He smiled broadly as he said "I am a chef.  I know all there is to know about food,"  I was smiling big too because I know that not every one who calls himself a chef knows about our "brodet," but Angelo does.

The occasion this night  was our second anniversary.   Two and half  years before,  the kind Sicilian lady at "Love N' Bloom" florists one block away had delivered a dozen red roses for my lady to Baci's. I had proposed marriage to my lady that very night.  The next day our then "new" Consul, Sinisa Grgic, had taken us out to lunch as we celebrated our engagement.  That was in June on my birthday. We were married at her parents on the next All Saints Day which,very  appropriately is a state holiday back "Home."  We reaffirmed our vows in church a few weeks later on my lady's birthday.

This night, we were celebrating our second anniversary.  Once again, the lady at "Love N' Bloom" had made up special flowers for my lady.  Angelo greeted us at the door and he made sure we were seated in the very seats where we had been when my lady had accepted my proposal.

 There was another "wrinkle" to all this that I must share with you since you have read thus far.  I had promised both Sinisa Grgic and Nenad Bach an article concerning the Consul for Crown Croatia, a prominent online, mostly Enlish language, magazine about things Croatian.   I still owe them both that article and some others.  Sinisa Grgic is responible for a region larger than most of the countries of the world with Croats of all sorts scattered here, thither and yon across the whole area.  Someone needs to write about how well he executes his responsibility in one of  the largest diplomatic posts on the face of the earth.

As it was, not long after our wedding, I was in the hospital with pneumonia after which I was diagnosed with COPD from which I have  been slowly recovering though I am still bothered with nuisance of oxygen  assist via an oxygen concentrator for a good part of the day.
And then, in May this past year, I was diagnosed with ascites, a not so happy condition which suggests very strongly that my liver is in serious trouble.  Only a too small percentage of those diagnosed with ascites live more than a very few years afterwards.   The doctors, my lady, and I have been working hard to make sure that perhaps I shall be in that small percentage who survive. 

Low, or perhaps nearly no sodium intake is an imperative in this quest.  Blessedly, I am a Slavonian male among those Croatians whose cultural traditions is that the men do a substantial part of the cooking.  I do not necessarily know how Slavonks are on this topic today - our family came to America almost 300 years ago - but this is in my family tradition at least, and one does not just willy nilly throw off the ways of his fathers and their fathers before them.

I have been able to do the research and by assiduous effort I have learned to make even "traditional" recipes without the addition of salt.  Since every living thing and thus every plant and animal that we eat has in it a certain amount of sodium, portion control of certain foods is a requirement.   For example, if salmon has 55 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams of fish, one does not wish to eat 200 grams of this fish at one meal.  Else one risks ingesting too much sodium over the course of a day in conjunction with other meals he will eat.   Through portion control and tracking my diet I generally manage to keep my sodium intake substantially less than 400 milligrams per day, most often around 200 milligrams.

We eat well and deliciously.  The only thing really missing is that there seemed to be no place to go for a meal "out" because restaurant menus tend to be overloaded with NaCl (salt/sodium).   Even my liver doctor had been a bit sad that it was impossible for us to eat out if I hoped to survive.   And so it was that we wrote off even the possibility of any celebration at a restaurant.

But then, my dear lady called Maria at Baci Restaurant and explained to her our predicament.  Maria replied that there was no problem.  Angelo prepares each meal individually for his customers.  It was no problem, she said, to prepare my meals without the addition of any salt.   Instantly my lady made reservations.

When Angelo greeted us at the door, he already knew about my special needs.   I had done research on his menu - which he posts on the internet for all to see.

For an appetizer, I chose the polenta al porcin, which Angelo describes as a Roman style polenta, served with a delicate porcini mushroom sauce.  He disappeared to store room and reappeared shortly with a quart jar of sauce, which he showed me at the table, saying "no salt added."  Now, nobody anywhere makes a better palenta than I do.   So I thought.  Heaven knows, I've more than  sixty years experience making it and we've come a long long way from the tedious methods of yore.   Like almost all Croatians, I'm a connoisseur of palenta.  In just a few minutes my plate of polenta appeared - the best flavor and texture I've ever had in my life.  The the porcini sauce with it was exquisite.   And he was  telling the truth - no salt.  When you restrict your sodium intake to under 400 mg per day, you can tell these things, food has taste without salt.   This plate was loaded with delicate and delicious nuances of flavor.  I am guessing a hint of truffle, of course porcini, maybe a bit of tomato, and some other flavors which teased my palate.

My lady had Angelo's homemade traditional lobster bisque.  Even though Angelo warned us that this had salt in it, I had to try a couple of spoonfuls of the bisque.   The only description I can make is that it was heavenly.   My lady calls it "amazing."

We had then the insalata alla Baci, which is mixed greens salad with carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, tomato, and red onions.  For me, Angelo held the Italian vinaigrette dressing and provided me with simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar so that I could side step the salt in vinaigrette.

Before we went to the restaurant, I had looked ahead to find a main course that lent itself to extremely low salt preparation.  There were a number of choices that could have fit.   I chose the Salmone Alla Baci, which is baked salmon with cherry tomatoes, garlic, asparagus, artichokes and extra virgin olive oil served with vegetables and potatoes.   Again, I make a mean  baked salmon, but nothing quite like what Angelo served to me.  Again, no added salt and I could taste every delicious bite.   Heavenly.  The portions were ample - almost 200 grams, so half of that wonderful fish came home for my lunch today.

My lady had the Fettuccine Angelo, which is fettuccine pasta with chicken, sundried tomatoes in a light creamy sauce.  Her words: "it melted in my mouth."  I took a taste.   Oh, even though the sundried tomatoes by nature may have too much salt for my diet (how does one have sundried tomatoes without salt?), it was wonderful.   The delicate nuances of flavor and aromas danced seductively on my tongue.

As we turned to our dishes of  sorbetto al limone, lemon sherbet imported from Italy, we remarked how such a treat as sherbet had once been a treat pretty much reserved for royalty. 

As we concluded with a cappucino for me and a sambuca for her, my lady and I were feeling pretty much royal ourselves from the exquisite flavors, the service, and how Angelo made us feel like family in his place.

And then, as we stood up to go, Angelo hugged us and he said, very softly to the two of us, "Laku noc!"

Friday, December 22, 2017

Danas Je Pun Veselja Dan

"Danas Je Pun Veselja Dan" (Today is full of happiness day) appears in Kavaliri's album "Virjeme Božića" (Christmas Time). At the present, Kavaliri consists of Danijel Češnjaj, Ivan Brezni, Tomislav Žirovec, Miljenko Bistrović, Ivan Hranj, Damir Poljak, Srečko Plavec, and Dominik Poljak. "Virjeme Božića" was produced by Croatia Records and is currently owned by ℗ 2006 SBS Music / Menart and is administered by Orchard Music. We'll call this one gospel music.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Davno davno, daleko daleko,,,,,,,,,,, once upon a time, long ago and far away
I was very very lonely.
So I did what I would do under that circumstance.
I prayed.

I prayed "Dear Lord, I have been without anyone for ever so long and I am a lonely as any man ever was lonely. Once before Lord, when I was alone and in need of a companion, I prayed to you. As I recall, Lord, I prayed a very specific prayer and that very day you answered my prayer. You sent to me a solid Lutheran woman with great intelligence well suitable to be my companion. As I asked in my prayer, she had very large breasts and long legs like those of a dancer. She had once tried out for the Rockettes and she had performed in at least one "off broadway production." She loved to sing and so our life together was very much like living in a musical. The only thing, Lord, is that she died, and she is with you now which brings us back to where we began with this prayer. I am alone again and haven't the slightest idea how to find a suitable companion.

Lord, if I may, let me ask this time for another lady with a lot of breasts, great legs, and long blonde hair.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Now this is no spoof. I really prayed these prayers. My friend Greg Goga knows about this and he knows that I prayed such prayers.

The very next morning, Greg came to my house to check on me as he often did. Greg takes very good care of his aging mother and he looked in on me with with great regularity to make sure I was ok.

Greg usually came in through my back patio door. On this particular morning, Greg called out: "David, you won't believe this, but the Lord has already answered your prayer. There is a lady with long sexy blonde hair here on your patio waiting for you." Of course I came fast to check this out. Sure enough, there was pussy on my patio, pussy with lots of tits and and sexy long blonde hair.

Apparently God has quite a sense of humor. She wasn't quite what I had in mind, but God gave me exactly what I had asked for. All I could do was give thanks to God almighty. Don't anyone ever tell me that God doesn't listen to prayer. I know that He does. My old yellow cat has stared in several productions including a few blogs here, and an interview with Tomislav Šikić that ran on Glas Hrvatske some time back. She too died a few years ago, and there have been other prayers on this same subject. Prayers which the Lord in Heaven has answered. The title of this song, on english is "With you I am happy, I am"

Često puta pomislim na to,
Kako tužno teku dani kad sam, sam
Dal ću ikad nać' to što tražim
Pravu ljubav da mi ispuni moj san

Od kad si ti pokraj mene
Sreća ko sunce mi sja
Sad je čas da ti kažem
S tobom sam sretan ja

Sad je čas da ti kažem
S tobom sam sretan ja

Često puta pitam sa strahom
Dal za tugu svoju sam, sam možda kriv
Oko mene ljubavi mnogo
Al za mene svaki dan ostaje svi

Od kad si ti pokraj mene
Sreća ko sunce mi sja
Sad je čas da ti kažem
S tobom sam sretan ja

Sad je čas da ti kažem
S tobom sam sretan ja

on english this is approximately:

Often times I think about it,
How sad are the days when I am alone
I'll ever get what I'm looking for
Just love to fill my dream

Since you were next to me
happy my sun shines
Now is the time to tell you
With you I am happy

Now is the time to tell you
With you I am happy

I often ask with fear
I'm sorry for my own sake, I might guilty
About me love me a lot
Al for me every day remains all

Since you were next to me
happy my sun shines
Now is the time to tell you
With you I am happy

Now is the time to tell you
With you I am happy

So that's the story .............
Well, not all of it.  Since this time, the Lord has sent Teryne to me.   And yes, baby, with you I am happy, I am.

David Byler   11 October 2017

Friday, September 8, 2017

For Home!

In Croatia just now, there is a horrid war of words. Most Croatians aren't really certain about what is going on, so it would be a surprise if many of my American friends had a clue. Perhaps, in my stumbling way, I can help.

The US has recently experienced a spate of monument destruction. These monuments have been in place for decades, and, in some cases, for more than a hundred years. First, plaques with the Ten Commandments were targeted. When the usefulness of that tactic wore thin, the target became statues commemorating anything at all to do with the Confederacy. Mostly, leftist "activists" have been spearheading these actions. Some people have noted that these leftist organizations have been notably absent in the relief efforts for those adversely affected by the recent Hurricane in Texas.

In a similar manner, in Croatia, leftists have been bent on removing plaques honoring defenders who fell during the Homeland War, or the War Against Greater Serbian Aggression, that took place in the nineties.

The howling is ostensibly aimed at words on the bottom left of these plaques. I say ostensibly, because centered on each of these plaques is a Croatian Cross. As in America, a goodly portion of the "left" has little love for the Cross. In staunchly Catholic Croatia, however, a good way to lose an argument is to challenge the Cross, so the target is the phrase "Za Dom Spremni," which the leftists decry as a "Nazi" slogan and, not so oddly, the western press echoes without checking the facts.

The facts are these: In 1866, Franjo Marković and Ivan Zajc wrote a patriotic song, "U boj, u boj" (To the fight! to the fight!). Zajc incorporated the song as an aria in his Opera, "Nikola Šubić Zrinski" in 1876 which honors Zrinski as the defender of Croatia, and thus, of Europe from a Turkish onslaught. In the song are the words:
"Into the fight, to the fight!
For the home, for the home now to the fight!"
For those who were taught that these words were the words of Zrinski himself in 1566 as he addressed the remnants of his troops before their final fatal charge into the Turkish lines where the Sultan was killed and the Turkish army fled the field, these are words fraught with a high degree of patriotic emotion.
"Nas mal, al' hrabar je broj!
Tko, tko će ga strt'?
Smrt vragu, smrt!
Za dom, u boj, za dom u boj
Za domovinu mrijeti kolika slast!"
which is to say:
"We are few, but courageous!
Who, who will bring him down?
Death to the devil, death!
For the home, to the fight, For the home, to the fight
To die for your homeland - such a delight!"

In the 1800s, Ban Josip Jelačić greeted his soldiers with the words "Za dom!" For Home! The troops replied with one voice "Spremni umrijeti!" Ready to die! There were no Nazis around for more than a hundred years so the slogan is certainly not "fascist."

In the Croatian language, "For the home!" is "Za dom!" Za Dom spremni recalls the words of the famous and beloved Ban Jelačić whose statue stands in the square named for him in the center of Zagreb, the capitol. So now you see where the slogan comes from, and surely you see that it arrived in the Croatian consciousness long before the Nazi folk were around. The slogan is ours, not theirs. As it happens, the fascists did use those words, even if wrongfully. Croatia is and always was ours, not theirs.

As it stands now, the HDZ, Croatian Democratic Union, does not have sufficient votes in parliament without the "support" of the HNS "Croatian Peoples Party" who insist that "Za dom spremni" are not words they wish to see, and so the present prime minister, Plenkovic, is hustling ways to remove the plaques. One was removed from a private residence because the owner did not have the proper permits. The howling and furor over the issue is deafening and, as in the United States, the left seems to have a poor knowledge of history, and much like the left in the US, they seem to like it that way.

So that's the story for now. Each day seems to bring a new permit to install the plaques and a new furor to have them removed. Here is a picture of what the complaints are about:

David Byler, aka Canovals


Is an old man allowed sometimes just to muse on things he has seen or heard and to write about them? I do most certainly hope so because I am an old man and I may have seen and heard about this and that.

Tata moj, my father, and I used to spend some time just talking among ourselves while we were repairing fences on his place in Brazoria County, Texas. After he left this pale of tears, the neighbors bought the old "farm" and from what they have posted on Facebook, the road into the place has been under water since Huricane Harvey swept through a few days ago.

Once, he brought up the subject of a Texas law passed in the days of Lyndon Johnson and his wife who was a bit of a wild flower afficiando. Roadside wild flowers are a bit of a thing in Texas and during her days of influence the State began to operate a seed farm for them. Crews scattered wildflower seeds along just about every roadside where they had a chance to take root and self propagate. In the process of their work, we learned that "Indian Paint Brushes" do better along side "Bluebonnets" and vice versa so those two were sown side by side everywhere.

The law in question made these roadside flowers the property of the State, which seemed only fair because the State had gone to considerable expense and trouble to put them there. A person was allowed to admire the flowers as he went along the highway. It was permissible to stop and photograph them anywhere it was safe to stop along the highway. The flowers were there for the enjoyment of the all the people and tourists were duly informed as to how Texas had an abundance of wild flowers. There were even "Wild flower trails," where those who wished to revel in the flowers could drive and see them everywhere. There was one thing NOT permitted. One could not stop and pick the flowers. That was a crime - a misdemeanor of some sort - but whatever, the law was taken very seriously, "DO NOT PICK THE WILDFLOWERS." "Picking" here in Texaneese means "don't cut them and take them away. You would be fined if you did.

Tata said that was a good law and that one should apply it to other things in one's life. There were "wildflowers" of the human sort that one should enjoy and admire, but keep on going past them. "Do not mess with the wildflowers," "leave them be."

I mentioned that Jesus said "whoever looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery in his heart."

This is where the conversation got serious. Tata came back with the original greek for this from Matthew 5 which says "ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ." and then he quoted from the croatian text which likewise says: "Tko god s požudom pogleda ženu, već je s njome učinio preljub u srcu."

As Martin Luther pointed out, "look at the letters." What do the letters say? First "γυναῖκα" is either wife or woman when you put it on english. Likewise "ženu" is either wife or woman also.

So there it is in the tenth commandment: "Ne poželi žene bližnjega svoga," don't want your neighbors woman. Here's the thing, if you are breaking the tenth commandment, you are breaking the sixth commandment which has to do with honoring and not breaking relationships. Jesus leads off by saying "Čuli ste da je rečeno: Ne čini preljuba!" "You have heard is said: Do not do adultery," so he is first of all speaking to the ten commandments as they are written. He is not adding anything to them.

The second thing to notice is that Jesus did not merely say "Whoever looks at a woman..." He said "Who ever looks at a woman with covetousness ..." Tko god s požudom pogleda. You can't just say "Tko god pogleda" because that leaves out what He is saying. Is this just about what men do in regard to women and women can do what they want? I don't think so, but if it suits you otherwise, I am not your judge. God is your judge in these matters. If you have any questions, go talk to Him about it all.

So now, is it ok to just look? To say otherwise is to attempt to make one's self holier than God, if such a thing were possible. God Himself placed all the wildflowers of every sort for humans to look at, to admire, to enjoy, but don't pluck the wildflowers. Pass on by and leave them be while giving thanks to God that He has put beauty in the world.

Just yesterday, while I was bringing coffee to my dear wife where she was working, there passed a lady on the sidewalk with shorts so short that when she took a step you could just barely see just the very bottom tip of her glutemous maximus peeking out for a split second. She was walking a dog and she paused briefly across the street to pet the dog and see if I would notice. I did notice, briefly. Briefly enough that I caught my lady's eyes as she watched mine. I let my eyes gaze up and down my lady's body with that certain grin I have when I do that. My lady smiled. She knew that my eyes were telling her that she is the real thing and, anything else is just a wildflower which I would pass on by.

A little later, on the way back from the art supply store, a young woman on a bicycle passed by on the sidewalk. I couldn't help but notice that everytime she leaned forward, her rather thin skort would ride up to show just about the same amount as the dog walking lady. Hmmm I realized then that both of these women knew exactly how much of themselves they were exhibiting. I don't think either of them was trolling for a man. I think they were trolling for a bit notice, a bit of esteem, a way to see that someone else thinks that they were pretty. Wildflowers, both of them, and that's fine, wildflowers do this.

Still later, at the store, there was a woman "manning" some sort of table in front of the store. She was wearing a dress that was obviously tailored to show the shape of her breasts as though her nipples were standing up to attention. In a Walt Disney movie there was once a barely pubescent girl dressed like that, was it the "Shaggy Dog." At thirteen, I thought that outfit and that girl were so "hot." At 71, well ... I was more amused at the woman's need for exhibitionism than I was titillated. The dress was so tight and thin that her belly button was on display through the dress and certain other shapes were somewhat visible too. She was not "indecent" by any means but she was also being a bit of an exhibitionist for the same reason the other two ladies had been. Another wildflower. I said a friendly "hello" and passed quickly on by, not to say that I didn't enjoy the moment - I am male, and I do enjoy being male. Is this the time to declare that I identify as male? I always have, you know. I also enjoy women who make it clear that they identify as female. Maybe that is why I'm not offended by some occasional discrete exhibitionism. These days it may be important to make these matters clear to everyone.

This morning when I took coffee to my beloved, she was wearing that blue skort that I so much like on her. She came out to the car and I enjoyed every step she took cominig to me. She kissed me and we chatted for a few minutes. As she walked back into the house, I watched every step she took. Her legs are utterly gorgeous. There's not a pair of legs on earth to match how lovely hers are. Her skort was pulled up high enough that I could imagine that maybe a quarter of an inch higher and I would be seeing her glutemous maximus. I wouldn't have complained if I had seen but my imagination was sufficent. There was no one else around. This show was just for me. I couldn't help but shiver with delight. I smiled. I smiled deep inside me where no one goes. I'm still smiling. My love is not just some wildflower to glance at and pass on by. She's mine to keep and I am hers. I am truly a blessed man.

David Byler, aka Canovals

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mea Culpa ....

I have been honored to have this post ran as a guest blog on Victory Girls Blog on 2 September 2017 Victory Girls Blog

I have murdered a man. I have most surely maliciously murdered him. My heart was filled with malice. even with malice aforethought. You will have likely never read such a confession on Facebook nor are you likely to ever read one such as this ever again.

The particulars of my malicious deed: Hardly any of you who knew me in Wharton High School, or Crosby High School, where I spent my senior year, knew anything about me after I left those towns. I attended a bit of college, joined the Air Force, and wound up selling lumber and helping manage truck, rail, barge, and ocean-going transportation for what was once the largest Yellow Pine sawmill in the world. I wish some of the folks I ran with in those years were still alive so they could tell you, too, about the fellow who owned a big honkin' Chevy C10 pickup truck with oversized bracing and shocks and tires so big that the whole rig stood right near four feet off the pavement. That's me. No, I was not a "mudder," but I needed that rig to get in to see about my parents’ little farm over next to David and Gayla Neel's place on County Road 743 in western Brazoria County. I also lived on the high ground in a subdivision out on old highway 90 which tended to flood anytime there was any sort of tropical storm. Several of my co-workers lived out there too. We were all on high ground, and we all had big honkin' trucks to get around in when the water got up.

When the water receded, we old swamp rat types, my buddies from places like Votaw over in the Trinity swamps, and me from Wharton/Matagorda/Brazoria county lowlands, we picked our way through the water into Lakeway Church which was on our side of town in those days on what was more or less an island in these flood times. We'd carry some of our neighbors who needed to get their feet dry over there, and then, like as not, we'd be commandeered to take in some loads of water bottles and other provisions. We'd pick up people and stuff and carry them in there until our fuel started running low, and then we'd go home having done what we could. No, we were not no heroes, neither. If we let our neighbors down too much, they'd sell out after the flood, and our property values would go down. It was in our own interests that we done what we done so don't go trying to say we did something good. I do remember several times thinking that Lakeway had a population equivalent to a small town inside their facilities during the floods.

Years went by, and I became more of an outlaw redneck than just a redneck, but we won't go into all that. I wound up in college again, and then in Seminary, so I could take up a career that paid me less than ten percent of what I'd made before. One of the first things that happened in my first parish up in Paris, Tennessee, was that the Henry County Emergency Management people contacted me. That wasn't hurricane country; it was tornado country. It was virtually impossible to plan shelters for people against tornados, because when one happened, you had seconds to get in a basement or other low place. We could and did plan what to do with people AFTER the tornado had taken down their house or such.

Churches and schools were, of course, part of the network - if they were still standing and still fit to be used. We had teams organized in advance to provide support to the first responders. Someone needs to provide sandwiches and coffee to the firemen and police and such so they can keep working. There was a tornado once seventy miles away. The crew from "my" church was on the ground before all the first responders were in place. They had hot coffee, hot chocolate, and sandwiches for the rescue people and were serving and providing comfort to some very scared and bewildered victims of the storm as they were gathered under tents pending transport to overnight shelter. None of that happens without a plan. Pastors report which buildings were still usable for shelter. School officials do the same. The County Emergency Management folks then decide which facilities are most suitable for the circumstances. My house, for example, was where everyone from a couple of blocks around me came running when the warning sirens went off. On the other hand, if the creek over by me was rising, my basement was useless, and I took people on down to the church. Are you getting the picture yet?

I left there and went down to the Rio Grande Valley, close enough to the coast for hurricanes to be an issue. The County Emergency Management team contacted me before I had my bags unpacked. There was a plan. Not every church nor school building is necessarily suitable shelter during high winds. There are engineering issues to be considered. Not every church or school building is necessarily suitable shelter in high water. Elevation and accessibility come into play. Not every church or school building is provisionable for sustained shelter. There are all sorts of matters to consider, and that is what the Emergency Management people do, not after nor during the storm, nor hours or days ahead of the emergency, but months and years before the emergency is even on the horizon. It wastes resources, for example, to ferry people from one flooded place out to another which is destined to go under water. Old people and children, anybody for that matter, are under enough stress already having to flee to safety once, much less having to be evacuated again and again, so you try to have data long in advance so that what you are doing makes sense. Not a small matter, one of the considerations for any designated shelter concerns working bathrooms and running water.

Whether you know it or not, pastors wind up being among the first responders to a crisis. Everyone ought to know this. When there is a crisis at a school, counselors are called in. Guess who winds up with that task during and after a storm? Yeah. And it's not just spiritual counseling. I remember the eighty plus year old woman who called me in a panic just as soon as phone service was restored after a hurricane. A tree was on her house. Now by this time, I was no longer the redneck in my four-foot-off-the-ground, big honkin' pick-up truck, but I was the pastor who had been busy on the phone locating my congregation and checking to see that all was well, or whether there were needs. I knew who in the congregation had chain saws and were young and strong enough to rescue her from her predicament. One phone call, and off they went to get the tree off her house. They followed the path of the hurricane-spawned twister and got some other trees off of other houses. You see, that's what pastors do, and that's what churches do. Larger churches perhaps have staff to do some of this. Heroes? No, that's just what they do.

Having had all these experiences and more in these matters, first as a redneck, then as an outlaw redneck, and in several more instances as a clergyman, I should have known there was something wrong with the criticisms of Joel Osteen and Lakeway Church when I first heard them. I was duped. I was duped because I wanted to be duped. I do not especially like Joel Osteen, but that is a personal matter. I do not especially like Osteen's theology, but that is a professional matter. What is important is that I allowed my feelings to overshadow truth and I, myself, besmirched Osteen's name, the name of his ministry, and the Name of the Lord God Almighty.

Now let's look at the truth. Lakeway said on Facebook "Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding! We want to help make sure you are safe." Pictures promptly surfaced purporting to show that Lakeway was not flooded. After that, pictures surfaced to show that in fact portions of the building were flooded. Neither set of pictures has any bearing on the matter. Highway 69 immediately adjacent to the building was impassible. More than that, the building did take on water during Hurricane Allison. While the building was being used for secular purposes, it flooded several times. Those are all well-known and demonstrable facts which any responsible Emergency Management team would have, should have, and did take into consideration before designating the present Lakeway site as a primary shelter, especially in the face of a storm which they knew already to be worse than any the county had ever faced. To have done otherwise, would have risked a repeat of the Super Dome situation in which tens of thousands were housed with no water, no sewage, and no security for those housed. The circumstances of the structure demand that it NOT be used as a shelter until the waters have begun to recede and that is exactly what has happened. Please note that the building can SEAT 16,000 but no way can it house more than 3-4 thousand. No one died because of how Lakeway was used or not used. Bear that in mind as you consider that the storm was more powerful and dropped more water than Katrina did a few years back. Responsible planning may have been part of the difference.

Second, in the case of a building like Lakeway, as a storm approaches, supplies of various sorts - diapers, bottled water, non-perishable foods, and the like - are prepositioned above the levels likely to be flooded, so that they are near where people will be housed. This is exactly what happened as the church served as a warehouse and distribution point to several shelters.

Osteen mentioned that the church has a sixty-year history of responding to crises such as Harvey. I have personally known since the 1970s that this is most certainly true. Whether I personally like Rev Osteen is not important. Whether I much care for the theology of his church is beside the point. What is to the point is that both Osteen and the congregation he serves did exactly what Harris County Emergency Management called upon them to do, and they did it in a magnificent and responsible way. What is to the point is that I, David Byler, bore false witness against my neighbor.

I have willingly broken the eighth commandment in which I learned that as God's child I am not to be bearing false witness against my neighbor, but that is exactly what I have done. I have learned and I have taught others that, in breaking this commandment, we have also murdered someone, because when we slay another's good name, we have not protected the life and well-being of that person. Many times, we read how someone is bullied by others to the point that they take their own life. When we steal (uh oh, another commandment) their good name, we kill a part of that person. If indeed, they die, it is our fault. In this case, it is certainly not to my credit if Rev Osteen survives my onslaught, but it was my duty to protect him, his name and his life. In this case, I have also violated the fourth commandment which instructs me to honor not only my own parents but all who are in authority but I have, in my behavior, denied that there are those who are in authority in this matter - to wit: the Emergency Management Agency. In this case, I have taken the Lord's Name in vain by allowing and encouraging others to mock the name of the Lord. In doing all these things, I have placed myself above Almighty God Himself.

It is for this reason that I confess to God Almighty, before the whole company of heaven and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault; wherefore I pray God Almighty to have mercy on me, forgive me all my sins, and bring me to everlasting life. Amen.

David Byler

Friday, July 21, 2017

Predrag "Cune" Gojković

Shhhh, be calm my beloved, be quiet and listen...
You know how I have to tell the story. Shhhh, be quiet and listen but do not go to sleep.

Davno davno, long long ago... so very long ago... and still today, there are mountains in the Balkans which you have very likely never climbed, and it is very likely that you have never seen, nor is it likely you have heard much about them. The Šar (Shar) mountains are likely such mountains. When Polybius wrote of these mountains, he called them "το Σκάρδον ὂρος" or "the Skaradon mountains" (xxxviii 8), as did Ptolemy in ii 16 and Livy (xlii 20, xliv 31).

The Romans very likely would like to have not had to hear of these mountains, because in them lived the Scordisci, who for several centuries held sway over the area which is now Serbia - and more. We Croats have a bit of a taste of them remaining in the name of a small but important town. All our towns are important, so why did I say that? Just 11 miles out of Šibenik, at the gates of Krka, is Skradin, which under the Romans, and before, was called Scardona after the Scordisci. According to Livy, they showed up in the reign of Philip V of Macedon as allies against the Dardani and Rome. By the third century BC, they had become the most important power in the northern Balkans. It took the Romans three hundred years to defeat them, and before the end of the first century AD, the Scordisci were receiving Roman citizenship and the Scordisci began to disappear as a people.

As soon as they had control over the area, the Romans, being ants as they were, set about building a road, the Via Militaris, or Military Highway, which reached northward from Constantinople. Along the way, the road passed through Naissus, which today is Niš, which became the birthplace of Constantine the Great, after whom Constantinople was named.

Follow me now. Here at Niš, we go up on Suva Planina (Dry Mountain) and find the Sokolov Kamen (Falcon's rock). This is the highest ground around us. We are going to look north. Perhaps we cannot see our destination yet, but we know it is there. We are going to, hang on to your seats, we are going to the Hawk's Nest (Kragujevac). Trust me, it is a little way up the road but not so far. We go.

Not so far from the Hawk's Nest, we find a little town called Batočina. Not so far from Batočina, which itself is nowhere, we find the little settlement of Brzan, which is nowhere at all, except not too far from the old Roman Via Militaris. About 1754 people live here. I did tell you it was little, did I not? Yes, I thought I did. Brzan is so small that hardly anyone has photos from there. There are a few people, and a church. Oh yes, there is a little bridge I wouldn't drive over if you paid me a fortune to do it, but that's about all that is there.

Through all the history of the Šar, which are now really to the south of us, through all the history of the Scordisci, through all the history of the Romans, the Byzantines, the Bulgars, the Turks, and through all the history of the Serbs, nothing important ever happened in that village. Nothing. Not a thing happened there. Until 1932.

On the 6th of November 1932, Predrag Gojković was born there. In 1939, it was back down the highway to the Falcon's Rock, where he attended the Primary school, "Vojislav Ilić Mlađi," named after a famous nineteenth century Serbian poet. He finished high school at the Eighth Male Gymnasium at the Red Cross in Belgrade, where he attended and was classmates with future celebrated actors, Velimir Bato Živojinović and Danilo Bata Stojković. He was already singing by the time he was seven, so, by the time he got to the College of Commerce, he preferred the Tavernas to the classroom.

He was an actor in three notable films: "Tri majstora" [Three Masters] (1996), "Jagode u grlu" [Stawberries in throat] (1985), and "I Bog stvori kafansku pevacicu" [and God created Kafena singers] (1972)

Known as Cune, his voice was incredible with three octaves. He recorded over a thousand songs for Radio Belgrade. Some say that, altogether, he recorded over four thousand songs. Whatever any one thinks of the man, he recorded and preserved a major chunk of the folk music of the Balkans. While it is true that we have long since given up on the idea of a "Jugoslavia," we are south Slavs; we have been scattered at various times all over the Balkans, just like the Scordisci of old. A big portion of this music belongs to us at least as much as to anyone. The man preserved a bit of history for us, and for that we commend him.

There is a corner of his repertoire that we Croatians just pass off as "Mexican." Well............ remember there was an Austrian Archduke Maximilian once upon a time. No, not that one. The one Napoleon carted off to Mexico - along with a passel of Croatian soldiers who got left behind when Napoleon turned and fled Mexico. Christian men they were, staunch Catholics for the most part. Some of them were musicians, and their music became the music of northern Mexico, and, to some extent, of Texas.

The corridos of the Mexican Revolution of the early twentieth century were heavily influenced by the music of these Croatian soldiers, who, after the demise of Maximilian's adventure, married the widows of the men they had so recently been fighting. During the persecutions of the Catholic Church in Mexico during the twenties of the last century, they were, in many cases, the staunch die-hard Catholics who fled over the border into Texas for religious freedom. This music, Cune honored, preserved, and reintroduced to South Eastern Europe from which it came. For this, we commend Predrag Gojkovic.

Alas, this morning, 21 July 2017, word came that Predrag Cune Gojkovic had been called home to our heavenly Father. I will miss him.

There are many stories we could tell of the man. Some should be told, because they are wonderful, and I will let others tell them. Other stories, we will smile, and allow to continue to be mysteries.

Počivaj u miru, prijatelju stari. Rest in peace, old friend.

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
21. srpanj 2017

PS -one of those Croatian Mexican Choruses from a hundred years ago which Cune recorded for us ..