Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Writer Tip #18: Go To The Movies!

The Arcade Theater, my home away from home as a kid.
When I began screenwriting, I became a student of the movies. I already loved the movies, but now I looked at them through different eyes. I still demanded to be entertained. but now class began every time the lights dimmed. I studied what worked and what didn't. I took note of new actors and actresses. I tried to figure why one film succeeded and the next one failed. During my formative years as a screenwriter, I attended between 110 and 190 films a year -- while working full time and writing multiple scripts.

A lot of people I know started screenwriting around the same time as me. Most of them failed to write a produced feature and stopped writing scripts. After a while, I detected a common trait among them before they gave up: They all stopped going to the movies. First, they started complaining about Hollywood movies, then independents, and then before long they weren't going to movies anymore at all.

Do I go to movies as much as I used to? No. Do I complain about Hollywood films? Yes, particularly their over reliance on superheroes, reboots and sequels. But I still go. I still want to be transfixed. And I still learn.

Here's the best advice I can give any aspiring screenwriter: Go to the movies. Often. If you can't see every film, at least see every film in your chosen genre!

Here's my movie list from 1995.  I wish I could find my list for 1998. That was my record year. I saw 198 films in the theater.  I did, however, have a theater chain pass.

01. THE  JUNGLE BOOK, **1/2, 1-1-95 at The Perry Hall
02. DUMB AND DUMBER, ***, 1-2-95 at The Annapolis Apex
03. THE SANTA CLAUSE, ***. 1-6-95 at The Perry Hall
04. I.Q. Rating. ***, 1-15-95 at Beard's Hill
05. DEMON KNIGHT, **1/2, 1-15-95 at Beard's Hill
06. LEGENDS OF THE FALL Rating: *1/2 1-16-95 at The Valley Center
07. RICHIE RICH, *, 1-19-95 at Perry Hall
08. DISCLOSURE, ***, 1-19-95 at Perry Hall
09. THE LAST SEDUCTION, ***, 1-20-95 at The Rotunda
10. MRS. PARKER AND THE VICIOUS CIRCLE, *,  1-21-95 at The Greenspring
11. DUMB AND DUMBER, ***, 1-22-95 at The Perry Hall
12. MURDER IN THE FIRST, ***, 1-22-95 at The Perry Hall
13. BEFORE SUNRISE, ***,1-30-95 at The Towson Commons
14. STREET FIGHTER, *1/2, 2-1-95 at The Southside
15. THE PROFESSIONAL, **1/2, 2-1-95 at The Southside
16. CARO DAIRO, **, 2-8-95 at The Charles
17. THE JERKY BOYS, **, 2-9-95 at The Perry Hall
18. THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, ***, 2-11-95 at the Yorkridge
19. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, **1/2, 2-12-95 at The Jumpers
20. THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE, ***, 2-13-95 at The Rotunda
21. ROOMMATES, *, 2-16-95 at The Golden Ring
22. THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE, ***, 2-17-95 at The Valley Center
23. QUIZ SHOW, ***, 2-18-95 at The Tollgate
24. THE HUNTED, **, 2-26-95 at The Beard's Hill
25. BILLY MADISON, Bomb, 2-26-95 at The Beard's Hill
26. THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE, ***, 2-27-95 at The Yorkridge
27. MAN OF THE HOUSE, *1/2, 3-5-95 at Beard's Hill
28. HIDEAWAY, **1/2, 3-5-95 at Beard's Hill
29. SHALLOW GRAVE, ***, 3-6-95 at The Charles
30. THE MANGLER, Bomb, 3-11-95 at The Towson Commons
31. OUTBREAK, **1/2, 3-13-95 at The Valley Center
32. BYE BYE LOVE, *1/2, 3-17-95 at The Yorkridge
33. PULP FICTION, ***, 3-18-95 at Beard's Hill
34. MAJOR PAYNE, **, 4-1-95 at Beard's Hill
35. CANDYMAN 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH, *1/2, 4-1-95 at Beard's Hill
36. THE WILD BUNCH, ***1/2, 4-2-95 at Beard's Hill
37. CIRCLE OF FRIENDS, ***1/2, 4-8-95 at The Rotunda
38. ROB ROY, **1/2, 4-10-95 at The Towson Commons
39. TANK GIRL, Bomb,  4-15-95 at Beard's Hill
40. TOMMY BOY, **1/2, 4-15-95 at Beard's Hill
41. EXOTICA, **, 4-22-95 at The Senator
42. DESTINY TURNS ON THE RADIO, *, 5-3-95 at The Perry Hall
43. JURY DUTY, Bomb, 5-6-95 at The Tollgate
44. MURIEL'S WEDDING, ***, 5-6-95 at The Tollgate
45. FRENCH KISS, ***, 5-8-95 at The Towson Commons
46. WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, ***, 5-18-95 at Perry Hall
47. VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, *1/2, 5-18-95 at Perry Hall
48. DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, ***1/2, 5-22-95 at The Senator
49. THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, **1/2, 5-24-95 at The Towson Commons
50. FUNNY BONES, ***,  5-25-95 at The Charles
51. FORGET PARIS, *1/2,  5-26-95 at The Towson Commons
52. CRIMSON TIDE, ***1/2, 5-27-95 at The Perry Hall
53. BRAVEHEART, **, 5-28-95 at The RC Eastpoint
54. FUNNY BONES, ***1/2,  6-5-95 at The Charles
55. CONGO, **, 6-12-95 at The Annapolis Harbour
56. TALES FROM THE HOOD, **, 6-17-95 at Beard's Hill
57. CASPER, **1/2, 6-17-95 at Beard's Hill
58. BATMAN FOREVER, ***, 6-19-95 at The Valley Center
59. SEARCH AND DESTROY, *, 6-24-95 at The Rotunda
60. CRUMB, ****, 6-27-95 at The Charles
61. POCAHONTAS, **1/2, 7-1-95 at Beard's Hill
62. JUDGE DREDD, **1/2, 7-1-95 at Beard's Hill
63. APOLLO 13, ****, 7-2-95 at The Annapolis Apex
64. APOLLO 13, ****, 7-3-95 at Eastpoint
65. SPECIES, *, 7-9-95 at The Southside
66. FIRST KNIGHT, **, 7-10-95 at The Senator
67. UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY, **1/2, 7-16-95 at Beard's Hill
68. APOLLO 13, ****, 7-21-95 at The Perry Hall
69. THE POSTMAN (Il Postino), ***1/2, 7-25-95 at The Rotunda
70. BABE, ***,  8-3-95 at Perry Hall
71. NINE MONTHS, *,  8-5-95 at Perry Hall
72. BUSHWHACKED, *1/2,  8-5-95 at The Tollgate
73. LITTLE ODESSA, ***, 8-6-95 at The Charles
74. SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT, ***, 8-13-95 at The Tollgate
75. DANGEROUS MINDS, **, 8-13-95 at Beard's Hill
76. A WALK IN THE CLOUDS, **1/2,  8-19-95 at The Valley Center with Andrea Barnes
77. LIVING IN OBLIVION, ***, 8-24-95 at The Charles
78. THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN, ***, 8-27-95 at The Rotunda
79. DESPERADO, *1/2, 8-28-95 at The Timonium Cinema
80. KIDS, *1/2, 9-2-95 at The Eastpoint
81. THE PROPHECY, **1/2, 9-3-95 at Beard's Hill
82. LORD OF ILLUSION, **1/2, 9-3-95 at The Tollgate
83. THE USUAL SUSPECTS,  ***, 9-3-95 at The Rotunda
84. SEPARATE LIVES, Bomb, 9-7-95 at The Towson Commons
85. THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN, **1/2, 9-11-95 at The Rotunda
86. DESPERADO. *1/2, 9-17-95 at Beard's Hill
87. THE PROPHECY, **1/2, 9-17-95 at Beard's Hill
88. NATIONAL LAMPOON'S SENIOR TRIP, **, 9-18-05 at The Annapolis Harbor Mall
89. HACKERS, **, 9-20-95 at Perry Hall
90. MORTAL KOMBAT,  *, 9-20-95 at Perry Hall
91. SEVEN, *1/2, 9-23-95 at The Yorkridge
92. CLOCKERS,  **, 9-24-95 at The Montgomery Mall
93. SHOWGIRLS, *,  9-25-95 at The Senator
94. HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, Bomb, 10-7-95 at the Tollgate
95. ASSASSINS, ***, 10-7-95 at The Tollgate
96. DEAD PRESIDENTS, **, 10-7-95 at The Tollgate with Bob Burgess.
97. TO DIE FOR, **, 10-9-95 at The Senator
98. STRANGE DAYS, ***, 10-15-95 at The Perry Hall
99. STRANGE DAYS, ***, 10-18-95 at The Timonium Cinema
100. THE SCARLET LETTER, **, 10-19-95 at The Valley Center
101. JADE, *1/2, 10-20-95 at The Valley Center
102. GET SHORTY, ***, 10-24-95 at The Towson Commons
103. MALLRATS, *, 10-28-95 at The Eastpoint
104. THEREMIN: AN ELECTRONIC ODYSSEY, ***, 11-3-95 at the Charles
105. FAIR GAME, *1/2, 11-5-95 at Beard's Hill
106. NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS, **1/2, 11-5-95 at Beard's Hill
107. POWDER, **, 11-5-95 at Perry Hall
108. HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, **1/2,  11-6-95 at The Senator
109. COPYCAT, **1/2, 11-12-95 at the Valley Center
110. THE USUAL SUSPECTS, ***, 11-17-95 at The Towson Commons
111. THE MIGHTY APHRODITE, **1/2, 11-18-95 at The Greenspring
112. ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS, **1/2, 11-19-95 at Beard's Hill
113. VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, *, 11-19-95 at Beard's Hill
114. GOLDENEYE, **, 11-20-95 at The Yorkridge
115. GET SHORTY,  ***, 11-24-95 at The Valley Center
116. MONEY TRAIN, *1/2, 11-25-95 at Beard's Hill
117. CASINO, **1/2, 11-25-95 at Beard's Hill
118. WHITE MAN'S BURDEN, **1/2, 12-1-95 at The Valley Center
119. SEVEN, ***, 12-3-95 at The Tollgate
120. TOY STORY, ***, 12-3-95 at The Tollgate
121. CASINO, **1/2, 12-8-95 at The Towson Commons
122. CARRINGTON, *1/2,  12-11-95 at The Rotunda
123. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, ***,12-13-95 at The Senator
124. PERSUASION, *1/2, 12-15-95 at The Charles
125. NIXON, **, 12-21-95 at Towson Commons
126. DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT, **1/2, 12-23-95 at The Southside
127. LEAVING LAS VEGAS, ***, 12-26-95 at The Charles

Other Tips:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

RIP, DJ Long

DJ Long (left) with bandmate Scott McGinn
David Jesse Long, a founding member of bands Face Dancer and Growing Up Different, has died. DJ, who sang and played keyboards and flute, later moved to Jamestown, Rhode Island where he served many terms on the city council.

Below is the Group Up Different music video Watching In The Moonlight featuring DJ. The video was directed by my frequent co-writer Timothy Ratajczak during our heady post-college days.  The video crew was a veritable who's who of our graduating class from Towson State University (now known simply as Towson University.)

Those were good times. Thanks for helping to provide the soundtrack of our lives, DJ.  Rest in peace.






THE PROMISE - Chapter 7

This will be the last sample chapter of my memoir, The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God, published by TouchPoint Press, that I will be posting on the blog for the time being. I thought it would be best to end on an upbeat note, but, rest assured, things don't work out as I intended.  If they did, there would be no book!


7 – Mission Accomplished

LATE APRIL 1979.

By any objective measure, my efforts to bring Kathy into my life had been a complete and utter failure.

My daily three-mile excursion past her house kept me trim, but it only produced a few conversations that, to my knowledge, led to absolutely nothing. I never found the courage to ask her out, let alone express my feelings. I also had no idea if she had any feelings whatsoever for me. If she did, they couldn’t have had anything to do with anything I had said or done, because I hadn’t said or done anything.

Left to my own devices, I doubt we would have ever dated. It was coming up on the second year since I received the promise. I was nearing the end of my senior year at Curley. Next fall I would be going to college. The following year, she would also be headed to college. Unless something happened soon, we would drift off into our own separate worlds.

I was at a loss, but I never lost faith. Something would happen. And it did.

One Saturday night, Kathy came to our house on Rueckert Avenue to hang out with my sister Jeanne. I started telling her about a feature film I had just bought called Night of the Living Dead. The low-budget, black and white horror film, directed by George Romero, was a real eye opener to me. When I first saw it, I found it genuinely jarring and disturbing in both its violence and dark tone. This influential zombie opus changed the way I looked at film, and I had written a glowing review about it for the Curley newspaper.

Kathy told me she’d love to see it. Jeanne wasn’t interested, but had no problem with letting me show it to Kathy. My projectors were up in my third floor bedroom. She came up to my room. Alone. We sat on the floor with our backs against the wooden frame of my bed and watched the ninety-six minute movie, which was longer as a result of my manual reel changes.

I couldn’t believe it. The girl of my dreams was in my bedroom. Alone. For almost two full hours.

Did I put the moves on her? You already know the answer to that question. I shockingly didn’t even try to slip an arm around her shoulder. What a waste! Isn’t that why guys take girls to scary movies in the first place? To give the girls, and themselves, an excuse to hold onto each other? But no, I was still too shy. We just sat there and watched the movie. Or, in my case, tried to watch the movie. My heart was racing. I occasionally peeked over to catch a glimpse of her. I’m not sure if I ever caught her sneaking a peek at me.

It was late when the movie ended. Kathy thanked me for showing it to her and said she enjoyed it. Then she went downstairs, said goodbye to my sister and walked home. Alone.

She later told me she hoped I would offer to walk her home after showing her such a scary movie. I wish I knew she felt that way. I would have been happy to walk with her. As it was, I was afraid I would be crossing the line by offering to walk her home. Fortunately, it would only be a week or two before we could openly talk about our desires, with the help of Jesus, director George Romero, and Kathy herself.

The next time I saw Kathy was on May 8, 1979. The date we subsequently celebrated as our anniversary.

It started like any other day. I was walking my route. I found Kathy sitting on her porch swing, smiling and happy. She waved me over. We sat and talked amiably, as we had before, on the grass in the shade of a tree on a small rise that marked the border of her front yard. She told me she had to go to the library in Parkville. She asked me if I wanted to go with her.

Did I want to go with her? You bet I did! This was unbelievable. We were actually going to go somewhere together! It wasn’t a date, but it was still a dream come true! Or should I say a promise.

Thank you, Jesus!

Kathy had just gotten her driver’s license. She drove us out Harford Road into Parkville, a small, suburban community in nearby Baltimore County in her mother’s mid-seventies Plymouth. I have no memory of what we said or did at the library. I can only imagine that I followed her around like a puppy dog with a big, goofy smile on my face while she did her schoolwork. When we got back to her house, she asked me if I wanted one of her school pictures. I certainly did. She went into her house and got one for me, and wrote a nice and encouraging little message on it that even used the L-word.

Now the ball was in my court. Kathy had done everything except ask me to ask her out. 

At the time, I viewed myself as the pursuer. I was the one who dreamt of her. I was the one who walked the long, lonely miles. I was the one who prayed and kept the faith. In retrospect, it is obvious that something had changed within her since I received the promise.

In our first meaningful private conversation after I heard the voice, Kathy obviously didn’t consider me a romantic possibility. If she had, she wouldn’t have been asking me about Charlie Woods. It would please my ego to think I had done something to cause a change in her attitude, but I hadn’t. I only had a handful of meaningful conversations with her over the ensuing year-and-a-half. I dare say none of them were characterized by any particular wit, sophistication or romantic savoir-faire on my part. I hadn’t displayed any! I’m sure it wasn’t my physique either. I was a short, gangly guy with a relatively big nose and totally unruly hair. My only physical attributes praised by girls were my long eyelashes, but, trust me, few girls got close enough to see them. I was shy, naïve and immature. My strengths were a good sense of humor, persistence, and, although I didn’t know it at the time, the ability to love very deeply if given half the chance.

I don’t know why Kathy became interested in me. My only explanation is that God had gently turned her heart to me the way He had turned mine toward her. 

God had worked it out in His own way, and, in my experience, that’s the way He always did it. Any time He gave me a word of knowledge, He would fulfill His promise on His own. Despite my desire to pitch in and help, He never needed my assistance, and the events usually came to pass in a way I didn’t anticipate.  

In His time. Not mine. I believe that’s what happened here.

I honestly doubt I would have ever even considered asking Kathy out on a date if I hadn’t heard His voice. He brought me to her. I had given Kathy no reason to be interested in me. When it came to looks and charm, she was definitely out of my league. I can only assume He drew her to me.

God had orchestrated this whole relationship. In His time. In His way.

Now I finally stood before Kathy, the girl I had dreamed about for nearly two long years. She was looking at me expectantly. Waiting. It was my turn. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of: “Hey, remember that movie we watched, Night of the Living Dead? The sequel just came out. It’s playing at Golden Ring Mall. Do you want to go and see it?”

I wonder if I stammered? If I did, it didn’t matter.

“Yes."

Wow. She said yes.

Actually, inviting her to a movie at Golden Ring wasn’t a very smart move. I spent a lot of time there with Jim and Bob. Those were the glory days of shopping malls, and the two-story Golden Ring Mall was the retailing crown jewel of the Eastside of Baltimore. Teenagers flocked there, all intent on meeting members of the opposite sex. Bob thought it was a good place for us to meet girls, but, as usual, it became a good place to watch girls from a safe distance. The problem with taking Kathy to Golden Ring Mall was that I didn’t have any transportation. I didn’t drive. I didn’t even have my driver’s license. What was I going to do? Ask Bob to give us a ride? Nah. Or my parents? Yikes. Disaster! 

Fortunately, Kathy said she could get her parents’ car. The movie, George Romero’s horror masterpiece Dawn of the Dead, was extremely crowded. We were forced to sit in the front row, craning our necks to look almost straight up at the screen. That didn’t prevent me from boldly putting an arm around Kathy’s shoulder. Despite the fact that my arm gave her a terrible crick in her neck, she never asked me to move it. I didn’t move it either, even after it fell asleep and began to ache. This was still a dream come true.

After the movie, Kathy drove me home. She pulled over and parked a little up the street from my house. Throughout the course of our relationship, she often laughed at the timidness of my words when I asked, “May I kiss you?”

She said yes. And I kissed her with a tenderness and passion I never dreamt myself capable of attaining. I always kept my heart tightly locked, but those chains melted that night. I think Kathy and I both surprised each other and ourselves. My first kiss wasn’t just a kiss. It was a veritable tidal wave of affection and emotion. I always knew Kathy was sweet. I knew she was kind. I didn’t know how passionately alive and affectionate she was.

It was an exhilarating and happy surprise.

The windows quickly fogged. I don’t know how long we sailed across this undiscovered sea of desire, but it was too long. Kathy had a curfew. She had to get the car back home, but we always needed one more kiss. Finally, she reluctantly managed to pull herself away. She got home late to the disapproval of her parents. I, on the other hand, could have walked straight to the window of my third floor bedroom. 

Praise the Lord.

Kathy wasn’t my wife yet, as promised, but this evening completely justified the faith I had long placed in the Lord’s word. It was unbelievable. I was a changed man. I literally didn’t consider myself capable of both giving and receiving such affection. I held her and kissed her, and she did the same to me. To a shy boy sitting in his attic room, still shaking with excitement and disbelief, it was a miracle. The best kind.

Years later, a friend of mine, John Noble, wisely said, in the midst of a male-bonding weekend on the beach after he broke up with his first real girlfriend, “First love is the best, because there’s no fear.” 

He was so right. All the fear in me dissipated overnight.

I knew I would be able to tell her anything. I knew I would be able to be my authentic self around her. I felt completely secure. Why not? I knew we had a future. It was God’s will, and if God wanted it to happen, it had to. Right? There wasn’t a single iota of doubt in my heart. God’s will was my will. My relationship with Kathy would tie together the desires of both my heart and my soul. For good or evil, the two were now inseparable. 

How could I be afraid of her? The concept of fear was absurd. At least to me.

Kathy’s parents, however, expressed some fear. Or at least some firm disapproval. She came home late with the car after our first three dates. Her parents would have been even angrier if they knew what had happened on that third night. After our scheduled activities, we decided to drive out to Loch Raven reservoir, a large man-made lake north of Baltimore City that provides most of the city’s drinking water, to find ourselves a nice romantic lovers’ lane. We parked in a secluded area and began making out again. The windows were soon so fogged we didn’t notice the other car until they flashed their high beams.

It was the police. They pulled up directly behind us, locking us in place and came sauntering up with flashlights. I bet they spent the rest of the night laughing about how scared they had us. They told us we were trespassing, but, after making us squirm a bit, they let us off with a verbal warning. Kathy was beyond relieved. She was so afraid of what would have happened if they had arrested us.

Even without knowledge of our close call with the police, Kathy’s parents were upset enough on their own. This was her third time coming home late. Her punishment was that she couldn’t use the car for dating anymore. 

No problem. I was ready to step up to the plate.

I had already taken drivers’ education at Curley, but I hadn’t bothered to get my driver’s license. Before I started dating Kathy, Bob Burgess and I were pretty much inseparable. I didn’t go anywhere without him, and he had access to his parents’ car. I didn’t need to drive. Now I did.

I immediately went out and got my license, despite the warning of my driving instructor at Curley who prophesied that I would kill someone behind the wheel. The guy who administered the driving test at the MVA shared his opinion. He got out of the car angry because, technically speaking, I had passed the test. Before he slammed the door, he looked at me and said, “I’ll be reading about you in the newspapers.” 

Who cared what they thought? Not me! I had Kathy. Nothing else mattered.

I had my license, and use of my mother’s Ford Torino. It was a multi-hued Frankenstein monster of a vehicle assembled with a hood and fenders from various different cars. It was generally free in the evening. So was I. I never remember having a curfew after we moved to Rueckert Avenue. Once, after listening to my mother fight with my sister Laura for an hour about what time she was coming home at night, I asked her when she wanted me to come home. 

“Anytime,” she replied.

Now I had somewhat regular transportation, though that first year Kathy and I still had to take the occasional bus over to York Road to catch a movie at the Senator Theater. We also spent a great deal of time walking up and down Harford Road holding hands. That was often nicer than driving.

Now that I had a regular girlfriend, it was time to secure a steady source of income. Bob Burgess and Jim Jackson were already working as bus boys at Thompson’s Sea Girt House. Sea Girt means surrounded by the water, and, once upon a time, the white tablecloth restaurant sat on a small peninsula in the harbor. Now it sat at the decidedly less maritime corner of York Road and Northern Parkway. It was one of the oldest and finest seafood restaurants in Baltimore. They had the best crab cakes in town, and that’s saying something. Baltimore restaurants pride themselves on their crab cakes, and the title of best is fiercely contested.

My buddies put in a good word for me. At the end of the interview the manager told me to buy some black shoes, black socks, black pants, a white shirt and a black snap on bowtie. Yes! I was now officially a working man. Since the restaurant management proved willing to work around my college schedule, I would remain on the staff for years. However, I suppose I could blame them for starting the process that ultimately made me twice the man I used to be. Employees were permitted to help themselves to the soups. I had cup after cup of their delicious cream soups. I actually had a bit of a belly by the time I left their employ.

So now I had it all: Transportation. Income. Someone to love. No fear. Well, maybe a little.

Kathy’s parents definitely worried about what we were up to. We were, too. We were good kids. Innocent. Moral. Early on in our relationship, Kathy told me she wanted to be a virgin on her wedding night. I respected that. And, quite frankly, that’s what I wanted, too. In my heart, I knew Kathy wasn’t a conquest. She was a gift from the Lord. I didn’t want to repay Him by jumping the gun sexually. It was an easy decision to make, especially since I believed I would ultimately be the recipient of her virginity on our wedding night.

While it was an easy decision, it wasn’t always easy to remain true to our better angels. We were normal, red-blooded American teenagers. Our hormones were raging. It was a daily struggle, not with each other, but with our own desires. There would be many times when one of us would prove weaker than the other in our shared resolve. Abstinence can only succeed in a relationship when both partners are truly committed to it. I don’t regret the decision, even though I would ultimately not be the recipient of her virginity.

Our biggest test came that first summer. Kathy’s family went away for vacation, but she opted to stay home alone. Well, not alone. I was there.

Her parents sternly prohibited us from being in the empty house alone together. Yeah, right. We very quickly disobeyed, and, just as quickly, we found ourselves upstairs in her bedroom. In her bed. Making out. But it didn’t feel right, for either of us, so we soon retreated downstairs. I don’t remember ever being in her bedroom on Westfield Avenue again. Nonetheless, despite our continued virginity, it was an absolutely lovely week. A lot of it was spent swinging in the hammock hanging between two trees in her backyard dreaming and getting to know each other.

As if to confirm that I was right in the center of the Lord’s will for my life, during my last religion class at Archbishop Curley High School, the friar took out the Bible and read my old familiar, thesis statement, John 15:16-17: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: Love one another.” 

He said that was our mission in life. I couldn’t agree more. Still, the dark clouds on the horizon were creeping closer.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

THE PROMISE - Chapter 6

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be offering a taste of my memoir, The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God, published by TouchPoint Press, here on my blog. It is my true story of first faith and first love and how the two became almost fatally intertwined. Keep checking back for additional chapters.


6 – The Mission 

1977 - 1979.

To me, there’s nothing more satisfying in life than knowing the Lord’s will and your place within it. My life now had purpose and direction. I trusted God completely. If He wanted me to marry Kathy, so be it! I was now a man on a mission, and I was definitely loving it. 

Through this period, one Bible verse kept coming back to me again and again. It was John 15:16-17: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: Love one another.” Every time I opened the Bible, there it was. Every time I saw a preacher on television, or heard one on the radio, there it was. It soon became the thesis statement of my life. 

It also fit in perfectly with the mission at hand. 

The Lord had indeed chosen me, not the other way around. He wanted me to go forth and bear fruit. In the original context, that meant sharing the gospel. In my context, it obviously meant getting married and having children. To make sure those children appeared on the divine timetable, the Father would grant me anything I asked in Jesus’ name. What did I have to do in return? Love Kathy? 

That didn’t seem like much of a sacrifice. Sign me up.

What I had really done was take a perfectly valid Biblical passage with a wide interpretation and reduced it to one meaning within a single context provided by yours truly. That isn’t to say the passage didn’t have relevance to my upcoming relationship. It did. But by reducing my life to this one mission, I was further upping the ante unnecessarily. It was a mistake I would pay for later.

In the waning years of the seventies, however, I couldn’t have been happier. The Lord had given me a mission. Unfortunately, He didn’t tell me how to accomplish it. 

Obviously, in retrospect, it was clear that I wasn’t going to be marrying Kathy in the near future. My own parents’ youthful nuptials notwithstanding, we were both too young, even if we were both so inclined. Of course, I didn’t let such concerns bother me. I wanted to get on with the mission. The question remained how.

I knew where she lived. I knew her phone number. I could have very easily walked up to her door, or called her on the phone, and asked her out on a date. 

Yeah, right. Not going to happen.

I’m a Rosenberger. Remember?

I was way too shy and emotionally guarded to do that. In fact, I don’t think I ever honesty considered doing that. I needed another plan, so I examined my strengths and weaknesses. My major weakness was fear. Despite the encouragement God’s unexpected message gave me, I was still frightened she would say no if I asked her out. My major strength was that we were friends. We could talk easily. I had no problem talking with her in a pressure free environment. Therefore, I resolved to put myself in that very setting. 

I decided to place my faith in the chance meeting. I figured if the two of us just happened to end up at the same place at the same time, we could talk with no pressure. My first chance encounter with Kathy caught me by surprise. I was riding my bike up by Northern Parkway Junior High School with Charlie Woods and found her playing tennis on the courts out back. We had a pleasant chat. Believe me, I rode by those tennis courts often afterwards, but I never spotted her in that location again.

Rats. My strategy was proving to be a failure. Hamilton was too big. Baltimore was too big. The State of Maryland...Ah, forget about it. The world was too big. I couldn’t hope to keep bumping into her unless I developed a better plan.

I decided that the only place I knew for sure where she could be found was her own house. I resolved to walk by her house every day I could with the hope of seeing her. I couldn’t do it every day, especially during the summer. I spent most of those days with my friends and I couldn’t connive of a way to get them to walk down Westfield Avenue every day. Anyway, if I was with them, I probably wouldn’t do any more than wave to her. I wouldn’t want to do anything to give my feelings away. My romantic interests, and their decidedly odd religious inspiration, were strictly private. I never discussed my feelings for Kathy with any of my friends until after we started dating. Even then, they never knew about the efforts I made to reach her.

I rarely socialized with my friends on school nights. That’s when I would take my walks — usually between 4:30 and 6:00 pm. It was a three-to-three-and-a-half mile round trip between my house on Rueckert Avenue and her home across the street from my grandparents on Westfield Avenue, depending on the route I took. I rarely took the same route two days in a row, not as a result of any strategy, but rather to break up the routine. 

I didn’t want anyone to know why I was walking around that area. I had two cover stories prepared if anyone saw me and asked what I was doing up in that neighborhood. Only one of my close friends, Bob Burgess, lived near Kathy. If he saw me, I would tell him I was either heading to or from my grandparents’ house, depending on which direction I was walking at the moment. If a relative spotted me, I would say I was heading to or from Bob’s house, depending upon which way I was going. It was all very cloak and dagger, but my cover stories ultimately proved unnecessary. Neither Bob nor any of my relatives seemed to have spotted me during this period.

What’s odd is that I didn’t find any of this strange at all.

Here I was, walking three miles a day, five days a week, hoping to see a girl that a voice in my head told me I would one day marry. Was I crazy? (Don’t answer that.) For all I knew, the poor girl had no romantic interest in me whatsoever. Still, I knew to whom that voice belonged. I had a simple, child-like faith that if I trusted Him, He would deliver. I simply resolved to put myself in proximity to her and let Him do the rest. After all, this was His idea, not mine.

I had my first chance encounter with her early that fall. I think she was walking into her house. I said hello. She invited me over and we had a lovely chat for about fifteen minutes or so. Then she broached a question to me: “Do you think Charlie Woods likes me?”

Yikes. Looks like the Lord hadn’t had the same discussion with her. Still, I was absolutely delighted she felt comfortable enough around me to ask that question.

I don’t specifically remember what I answered. If Charlie Woods was interested in her, I’m sure I would have told her. I couldn’t see myself lying to her, despite my self-interest. Fortunately, Charlie Woods never expressed any interest, romantic or otherwise, in Kathy around me. He knew her brother Dan, but I never heard him talk about Kathy.

I could certainly see why Kathy would be interested in Charlie. He was charming and charismatic. He was the natural leader of my small group of friends, but our days in his orbit were slowly coming to an end. 

Jim Jackson, Bob Burgess and I, and some of the other guys from our old St. Dominic circle, followed Charlie, but, as we moved through our high school years, his behavior became increasingly erratic. He exhibited disturbing outbursts of anger. While waiting in the basement, we would hear him have screaming matches with his parents and his aunt Deb, who was also our age and had attended St. Dominic with us. I felt horrible about the way Charlie treated his aunt, especially when he would steal her diary and read passages about her romantic longings to us, but I never said anything.

Once, in a moment of anger, Charlie grabbed a three-pronged garden tool and drove it through the front of one of my tennis shoes. The metal prongs miraculously missed my toes, but it got me thinking. Something was seriously wrong.

Even the pranks Charlie devised took a dark turn. His idea of fun was to go to a public place, like the grassy divide between the east and westbound lanes of Northern Parkway, and have three or four of us pretend to beat him up. He’d lie on the ground taking our feigned punches and kicks while cars would stop to watch. We’d keep up the charade until someone finally got out of a car to intervene. Then we’d all run off together laughing. Once, however, when the time came to run away, Charlie deliberately ran off in a different direction! The rest us spent about a half hour cutting through yards and hiding in shrubs to avoid a determined do-gooder. That was the last time we played that game.

Charlie’s interests soon shifted toward biology. Whenever we’d go over to his house to play our traditional poker games we’d find ourselves surrounded by cages of mice. He selectively bred hundreds of them to bring forth one attribute or another. He kept meticulous notes on everything. It was harmless enough, but the cages made the place smell like we were playing poker in a monkey house.

Charlie’s biological studies were short-lived. More disturbing were his studies in chemistry.

Most kids seek forbidden fruit like drinking alcohol. We only had a very brief period of underage drinking. For a few months, a stolen bottle or two of Southern Comfort, mixed with Coca Cola, diverted the crowd. I did not partake. I had lost my taste for alcohol as a child when my brother Doug and I decided to purloin some open cans of beer during a party at our house. When I took a drink from my can, I discovered someone had been using it as an ashtray. The revolting residue permanently eliminated my desire to both drink and smoke! And smoking came next to our little circle. Marijuana soon followed and supplanted the alcohol — very quickly. Charlie became a pothead overnight. For a couple of months, he tried desperately to get me to indulge as well. Then his attitude suddenly and surprisingly changed. He began to admire my willpower, and would confess that he wished he possessed it as well. Before long, PCP was being sprinkled in with the pot. Things were getting serious.

Jim, Bob and I quickly started seeing less and less of Charlie. A new group of acolytes began gathering around him. They tended to be younger and more open to the drug culture than we were. I think Charlie always felt the need to be a leader. As a result, he made an interesting progression through my family. Originally, Charlie was my brother Doug’s friend, but that group of guys had too many alpha males to suit his taste. Then he started hanging out with me. Now, my doomed younger brother Mark fell into his orbit. Sadly, many of the people Charlie started hanging out with would have their lives cut short by drug overdoses or suicide.

I warned Charlie about the dangers of drugs to no avail. He was very intelligent. He didn’t just take drugs. He studied their chemical properties intently. Charlie repeatedly told me he knew far too much about drugs to ever become addicted to them. He probably wasn’t the first person to feel that way. He certainly wouldn’t be the last.

Charlie was soon manufacturing LSD and other arcane drugs of his own design in his basement. Jim and I went over to his house one final time to play poker and found him with a group of his new followers. They were flying high on acid, talking about how the walls were melting and discussing the meaning of various Doors songs.

“Mr. Mojo Rising, he’s talking about his Johnson, man!"

Oy vey. First, drugs. Now, The Doors. Please.

The evening came to a quick end when Charlie told me he had slipped acid into the iced tea I was drinking. I freaked out. It was probably the first time he saw me angry. He quickly admitted he was only kidding. He hadn’t put acid in my iced tea, but that was it. I never ate or drank anything at his house again. From that point onward, Jim, Bob and I would watch Charlie’s steady descent from a distance.

It was very sad. He was one of my best friends. He was like a brother, but now he was gone. Where he was going, I could not follow. Or should I say, I would not.

It would have been so easy for me to fall into the drug culture. Most of my friends were dabbling to varying degrees. It was perfectly acceptable. It was certainly harder to say no than to say yes. “Yes” was the road to popularity. “No” was the road to Loserdom. One would think with my inherent shyness, I would say yes just to win the approval of my peers. It was that impulse that compelled me to be an extrovert: An attention-seeking performer. But I couldn’t do it. Not this time. I chose instead to be a loser.

I often wondered why the Lord gave me that revelation about Kathy so long before I would actually start dating her. Now I think I understand why. He wanted me to know that He had plans and goals for my life. The Lord wanted to keep my mind and heart occupied so I would avoid these temptations. It worked. I had a lovely young woman waiting for me just beyond the horizon.

I had no time for drugs. I had to keep walking.

My strategy of unforced meetings wasn’t proving to be a rousing success. I would say that I only saw her four or five times over the course of nearly two years. Still, I didn’t feel I wasted a minute. Eventually, my daily walks were less about seeing Kathy than expressing my faith in God. Those walks were quiet times of prayer and meditation. I remember them fondly, particularly during the fall when the leaves were turning and the smell of change was in the air. 

I often found myself humming the 10cc song The Things We Do For Love. “Like walking through the rain and the snow when there’s nowhere to go and you feel like a part of you is dying.” Yes, I had walked through the rain and the snow for love, but I didn’t feel like a part of me was dying. I was alive.

I had purpose. Meaning.

More than that. I felt immortal, or at least temporarily indestructible.

Here’s the way I looked at it. God was sovereign. He had given me a mission. I accepted the mission. Therefore, since the Lord controlled all of the circumstances of my life, I would survive, no matter what, until I accomplished the goal He had set before me. Once, when hanging out with the guys in Bob Burgess’ basement, I made that very point without, of course, discussing any of the supporting details. They thought I was crazy. Maybe I was, but I would find myself putting that theory to the test on a lonely mountain road in a few years. And I survived.

Those were great days. I was happy. In every sphere of my life: school, friends, and my prospects for the future. Well, almost every sphere. There was one very large dark cloud looming on the horizon: The destructibility of my Grandfather Murphy. 

A hard drinker all of his life, Paul Murphy was beginning to suffer from liver failure. I was in a panic. He was my role model. I watched him, hoping to learn from him and imitate his style, attitude and demeanor, with the exception of his drinking, of course.

I knew he was dying, and I was positively distraught. I prayed incessantly. I told God I couldn’t handle his death emotionally now. The Lord responded, saying He wouldn’t take my grandfather until I could handle it. I immediately interpreted God’s word to suit my purposes. Personally, I didn’t think I would be able to handle my grandfather’s death until I was married and I had settled down with a family of my own. God had given me no such assurance. 

Perhaps sensing the coming demise of my grandfather, in the winter of 1978 the Gardiners invited the entire Murphy family over to their house for a sit down dinner. All of us: my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, their spouses and children. It was quite a crowd. We filled a number of tables all over the first floor of their house.


I have a number of photos of the party, and even some Super 8mm home movie footage. After the death of my grandmother Margaret in 2006, I, being the family archivist, was given possession of her photo albums and I have been scanning the photos to share them with all of my family. I found the photos from 1978 and 1979 particularly poignant. With each turn of the page, my grandfather, normally a large, robust man, grew thinner and sicker. That’s the way he looked at the party.

My grandfather would be the first to go, but so many other people at that party would follow him: my grandmother, my father, Kathy’s father, my siblings, Laura and Mark, my Uncles Brian and Doug, my Aunt Dhu.

The wash of time. It comes for all of us. 

There were also some photos of Kathy in the album; even one with me in the same frame. The camera never caught me sneaking a glance at her. No. I was way too careful at guarding my feelings to let anything slip in front of our families. Or even her for that matter. I don’t remember any specific conversations I had with her that evening. Maybe I didn’t have any, aside from the normal pleasantries. But I discreetly hovered around her, enjoying the sound of her voice, smiling when she smiled.

Looking back on the photographs, I found myself drawn to her face. Was that the face that launched a thousand ships? Pretty, yes. Bright-eyed, yes. Inviting, yes. I can recall many reasons to be drawn toward her, but now, in retrospect, I have to ask myself what was the driving force behind those years of longing. Was it her inherent and plentiful qualities as a human being? My desperate need for companionship? Or was it primarily the voice I had heard in my head?



Monday, December 4, 2017

Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast 3: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three



On this episode of the Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast, an intergenerational look at the movies, host and resident Gen-Xer (barely) Ralph Quattrucci brings us one of his favorite films of all time: The 1974 version of The Taking of Pehlam One Two Three.  This is also one of my favorite films, and would have been my first choice if we kept our original concept of only exploring underrated films of the 1970s. Al and Hassan both weigh in on whether the film holds up today, especially in comparison to the 2009 version starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta.

Here's the trailer of the original film:


Here's the video of our podcast:


Or you can listen to it on our webpage:  Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast

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Other Episodes:
Episode 1: Birdman
Episode 2: Marathon Man
Episode 3: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Sunday, December 3, 2017

THE PROMISE - Chapter 5

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be offering a taste of my memoir, The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God, published by TouchPoint Press, here on my blog. It is my true story of first faith and first love and how the two became almost fatally intertwined. Keep checking back for additional chapters.


5 – The Promise

JUNE 18, 1977.

Winter gave way to the spring and with the spring came joy. The whole Jesus thing was working out great for me. Not that you would necessarily know it from my behavior. Outwardly, I appeared the same. I didn’t suddenly become a street evangelist or a missionary to Africa. I didn’t start attending church more frequently or even become more outspoken in my mandatory religion classes. To quote the title of a film I later wrote, I was a true Holyman Undercover.

I wasn’t deliberately hiding my faith. I was still simply a Rosenberger at heart. To discuss such private things remained an anathema to me. If someone asked me a direct question, I would endeavor to give him a reasonably direct response, but, frankly, the subject of faith rarely, if ever, came up. Why would it? My friends and I were all Catholic!

In the Catholic Church, at least among the people I grew up with, we left the heavy theological lifting to the priests. That’s what they were getting paid for. We were trained to show up for mass and partake in the sacraments. Evangelism, for the average Catholic layperson, essentially involved getting married, practicing unprotected sex and then taking the ensuing progeny to church. We weren’t taught to share our faith. As a result, I was experiencing a mind-blowing encounter with the Supreme Being but kept it entirely to myself. A pity. Though I suppose I can’t really blame the Roman Catholic Church. My own Rosenbergian nature was more responsible. That said, I don’t remember the Lord ever pushing or prodding me to share my faith, either. I suppose He was waiting for me to finish my training period.

That would take quite a while.

Despite my lack of outward change, I definitely underwent tremendous internal transformation. With God watching my back, I no longer had any anxiety or concern about the future. I was happy. The inner sense of loneliness was gone. I was a new man, or, at least, a new teenager. And what did every teenager want in June of 1977? You guessed it: To see Star Wars.

I remember feeling utterly content as I stood in an impossibly long line outside the Towson Theater with Bob Burgess to see a Saturday afternoon screening of Star Wars. The buzz on the film was unbelievable, although no one could have guessed at the time what a monstrous cultural phenomenon it would soon become. Frankly, I was a little skeptical. I remember watching the television commercials playing on the Washington, D.C. stations before its release and thinking that the film looked kind of corny. Shows you what I knew.

Still, as I stood in line, allowing myself to be swept up in the enthusiasm of my fellow moviegoers, I found my thoughts turning toward the other thing every teenage boy wanted in June 1977: A girl.

The prospect of me getting a girlfriend at that time was remote at best. Why? Because I didn’t know any.

The girls I knew from St. Dominic had all been safely shipped off to all female high schools and I lost track of them. The neighborhood girls were all sisters of friends, or friends of my sisters. That essentially made them off limits. Despite riding the bus home every day with numerous, nubile young ladies from The Catholic High School, I didn’t have the courage to talk to any of them individually. I had no problem addressing, and, even amusing them, as a group, but those darned green uniform skirts were simply too intimidating for me. There’s no question. Pickings were slim for a shy, slightly goofy boy from Hamilton.

Bob, Jim and I were always on the lookout for girls – like any red-blooded American boys. Bob was actually pretty good at figuring out where to go to meet girls. However, despite Bob’s desire and ability to place us into proximity of members of the opposite sex, none of us were ready to make the first move. When it came to picking up girls, we were a pretty pathetic lot. And I ultimately didn’t mind.

I remember thinking, as the line to the theater slowly moved forward, that it would be great to have a girlfriend, but, if I didn’t have one, that’d be fine, too. I was happy where I was in my life just hanging with the Lord.

Perhaps out of appreciation of my well-ordered priorities, I got a strange feeling, or leading, as it were, that I would meet a girl soon. “Meet” is actually the wrong word. I’d already met her. I’d known her as long as I could remember.

Two or three weeks later, I found myself in the backyard of my paternal grandparents’ house at 3111 Westfield Avenue. It was a loud house growing increasingly quiet as my myriad of Murphy aunts and uncles married and left to start their own families. My family was only too happy to fill the void. We spent a lot of time there, especially during the summer. My grandfather, Paul James Murphy, was a wonderful host. Summer nights often found him cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. He’d also cook a terrific rockfish with stuffing. I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of seafood, but I would always make room for that.

The Murphy Pool
One of the great appeals of the Murphy house, other than the simple pleasures of family itself, was the pool in the backyard; pools, actually. There was a steady stream of above ground swimming pools built in the backyard throughout the sixties and the seventies. The first ones were extremely small, in the two-to-three-foot depth variety, but they always seemed ridiculously filled with people. Each summer seemed to bring a larger pool. By 1977, the circular, above ground pool, now wide and five-feet deep and surrounded by a concrete patio, had become a permanent fixture.

On one memorable evening, as the sky began to darken, I found myself in the pool alone with a certain Katherine Jean Gardiner, a neighbor girl from across the street. Her presence was not surprising. The Gardiners were frequent guests at the Murphy house and vice versa. The two families were very close.

Kathy’s parents, Daniel and Sally Gardiner, were a generation younger than my grandparents. Their children corresponded closely in age with my siblings and me. The oldest, the easy-going, good- natured Daniel, Jr., was about my age. Kathy was approximately the same age as my sister Laura. With all the time we spent at my grandparents’ house, it was only natural we would become friends. Whenever my grandmother Margaret wanted to get me out of her hair, which was frequent, she would say, “Why don’t you go over and see if Dan wants to play?” I was only too happy to comply.

The Gardiners were also a family that was touched heavily by the miraculous hand of God. In an automobile accident, Kathy’s father’s legs were crushed between two parked cars. The doctors felt they had no choice but to amputate them. Sally, distraught, called The 700 Club to ask for prayer and guidance. They told her not to let the doctors amputate his legs. They said he would be able to walk again. And he did.

Since then, Sally became what I would later recognize as an evangelical, born-again believer. At the time, however, I had never seen anything or anyone like her. She was totally outside of my realm of experience. My mother was undergoing a very religious phase at the time. She became active with the church and even indulged in extra-curricular activities like Bible Studies, but she remained within the Catholic norm.

My grandmother, Margaret Murphy, was also a firm believer. My Uncle Brian summed her up best in her obituary when he said, “Her major hobby was trying to get us to read the Bible.” She made sure we always prayed before every meal, and, yes, she forced some of her children to recite a psalm or two on occasion, but her faith was more staid and mainline. It was predictable. Understandable. Safe.

Sally Gardiner was different. When she talked about Jesus, you got the impression he was sitting in the next room, or maybe standing right behind you. She was quick to turn off the radio if she heard something she deemed satanic like the Fifth Dimension singing “Aquarius (Let The Sunshine In.)” She was equally quick to leave her church when they shunned a black family that dropped in for a service. Not to say she was judgmental. She displayed the fruit of the spirit. I found her kind, compassionate and no-nonsense. I really admired her. In fact, I envied her. Alone among the people I knew at the time, she seemed to share the same kind of faith that I possessed. I, however, lacked her boldness to express it in both words and deeds.

I still don’t have it.

Her husband, Daniel Gardiner, Sr., did not share her religious fervor, but I liked him, too; a lot. He had an easy smile, and I always enjoyed his stories and practical common sense. In the ensuing decades, I frequently found him hanging out at my brother Doug’s garage. His wife called him D.A., for Daniel Andrew. Dougie started calling him “Dah,” which Daniel appreciated, since it was also an affectionate Irish term for father.

The Gardiners were a good family. By 1977, Kathy’s brother Daniel and I had gone our separate way in interests, but I still held them all in affection; including Kathy. But that didn’t prepare me for what would happen next.

Kathy and I were the last two people in the pool. It was customary for the last people in the pool to create a whirlpool to gather together all the grass and whatnot into the center so that it could be easily scooped out. I remember putting my arms around her waist and started dragging her backwards along the edge of the pool. There were smiles and laughter as I pulled her faster and faster.

Then the strangest thing happened. God said, “Son, behold your wife.” Behold your wife?

Kathy?

What the...

Believe me, since that day, I have replayed that moment in my mind a thousand times. Those four unexpected words changed the course of my life irrevocably, for both good and evil. They would bring me years of bliss followed by years of sorrow and confusion when Kathy would prove not to be my wife.

Was it possible I imagined it? Part of me wishes I did. It would be easy to discount those words if this was an isolated incident, but it wasn’t. This was just a single link in a long, solid chain of words of knowledge and answered prayers. I had no reason whatsoever at the time to doubt it. Everything else the Lord said to me, both prior to this incident and subsequent to it, came true. I was in a place in my life where I expected and often received direct guidance from the Lord. He was simply doing now what He had already been doing. It was well within the realm of possibility.

Additionally, this wasn’t something I would have thought on my own. I wanted a girlfriend, but Kathy simply wasn’t on my radar screen. Not at all. The circumstances of the moment proved it. I had wrapped my arms around her waist and was dragging her around the pool. There is no way I would have been bold enough to do something like that to a girl I had romantic designs on. I was simply too shy. But I could treat Kathy like that because she wasn’t a girl to me. She was Dan’s sister. She was my sister Jeanne’s friend. Those were two major disqualifiers. If my relationship with Kathy took a wrong turn, it could ruin my relationship with Dan. He might feel compelled to beat me up. Not only that, if things went bad, she might complain to my sister and tell her what a jerk I was. I valued my privacy too highly to consider dating someone who had independent access to other people in my life. Plus, Kathy was too young for me. I was sixteen going on seventeen. She was a mere fourteen going on fifteen.

The whole idea was crazy. Behold your wife? Nobody was getting married any time soon. Still, the thought of dating, let alone marrying, Katherine Jean Gardiner was a revelation. And, after the initial shock, I found it not an unpleasant one.

Why not Kathy?

Until that moment, I never really looked at her as a girl before, but upon further examination, I discovered her to be quite a girl indeed. She was very pretty, and, as she blossomed through her late teen years into her early twenties, she would grow nothing short of beautiful. She was also great to be around. She was warm and friendly, with an inviting smile. Intelligent. Thoughtful. Funny.

What more could I want? Plus, she already liked me.

Maybe not that way, of course. I’m pretty sure she had given me as little romantic thought as I had previously given her. Probably less. But we were friends, and that seemed like a good foundation to build a relationship upon.

Perhaps most importantly, she was someone I already felt I could talk with and that was what I really wanted more than anything else. My desire for a girlfriend wasn’t inspired predominately by my raging hormones, although they were certainly a factor. I truly wanted a companion: A girl and a friend. Someone to drive a stake through the heart of my inner Rosenberger.

But the Lord was offering me more than that.

“Son, behold your wife.”

I didn’t object. I got onboard immediately. But, in retrospect, I wish I had never heard those words.

The Lord told me more than I needed to know. I’m sure I would have pursued Kathy with half the encouragement. I would have acted the same if He had said, “Son, behold your girlfriend.” That was all I needed to know. Instead, the Lord had upped the ante. In poker parlance, He pushed me all in.

I didn’t need to know He wanted me to marry her, especially since He knew I would eventually blow it. It’s one thing to break up with a woman you love. It is another thing entirely to know that that woman walking away from you was the partner God intended you to share your life with. Not only have you shattered a beautiful human relationship, you have also disrupted God’s perfect will for your life.

When I titled this book The Promise, or, The Pros and Cons of Talking with God, I wasn’t being a smart aleck. The pros of talking with God are self-evident but there are also cons. The main one is knowing. You have no excuse and no one to blame but yourself when you know, categorically and without question, God’s will, and then you deliberately choose to disobey.

How do you recover from something like that? I think it is better not to know.

The Lord disagreed.

Maybe because one day He wanted me to write this book about surviving in the gray area we create for ourselves between His sovereignty and our own free will.




Saturday, December 2, 2017

Kairos Prize Semi-Finalists Announced!


As a former winner of the 2012 $50,000 Kairos Prize for Screenwriting, I want to congratulate this year's semi-finalist.  (See my blog: Winning The Kairos Prize.)  I want to thank Dr. Ted Baehr and Movieguide for offering this contest and the rest of their good work throughout the year.  Screenwriters are rarely treated as well as they are by the team at Movieguide, and it is a great opportunity to gain for industry exposure.

Yours truly with the award and the check!
Below, you will find the semi-finalists in both categories.  I only wish the last names were included.... (That way the semi-finalists will show up more readily in the Google searches by producers!)

Kairos Prize by Beginning Screenwriters
“Angels and Attorneys” by Lisa L.
“Bodey’s Bible” by Ernestina J.
“Christmas Forever Home” by Jody T.
“FISH” by Richard G.
“Hammering It Home” by Lesley M.
“Illuminate” by Seth H.
“No Room at the Inn” by Mark D.
“North Star” by William G.
“Out of Eternity” by Joel B.
“Skirting the Naughty List” by Christopher P.
“The Bless Me Club” by Matthew E.
“The Mountain” by Ellen W.
“The Methuselah Project” by Rick B.
“The Piano Gospel” by Tony G.
“The Summer Preacher” by W.D.

Kairos Pro Prize by Established Filmmakers
“Appointments with Heaven” by Brian B.
“Broken Pieces” by Rick G.
“Good Again” by Jeanne D.
“OMG!” by Robert L.
“Sheba” by Carole W.
“Sold” for Ashes by Glenn B.
“Switched” by Alexandra B.
“The Extremist” by Ron P.
“The Inheritance” by Alexandra B.
“Trapped” by George E.

Below is the clip from the 2012 Movieguide Awards of the Kairos winners receiving their awards in front of an audience of Hollywood notables. (Back then, the rules were slightly different. Their were three winners in a single category.)


Be sure to check out my memoir, The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God, on the way to the ceremony.