Tasting Life Twice

a journal of reflections on things seen and unseen, whimsical and wise, ordinary and odd, magical and mundane, with a few stretchers thrown in here and there for good measure -- Travis Tamerius

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Characters from O'Connor: The Dog-gone Headache

Flannery O’ Connor (d. 1964) the late, great southern novelist was once asked why she wrote such eccentric characters into her short stories. She responded: “to the hard of hearing you shout, to the almost deaf and blind, you draw large and startling characters.” To honor Miss O'Connor, and her valuable collection of exotics, we recognize other such characters who would be right at home in one of her novels.

Wentzville woman found guilty of assault with dead Chihuahua
By Valerie Schremp Hahn

A Wentzville woman could get up to 18 months in jail and a $1,500 fine for hitting another woman over the head with a dead Chihuahua puppy.
Lisa Hopfer, 34, was found guilty of third-degree assault and trespassing, both misdemeanors, at a trial at the St. Charles County Courthouse this afternoon. She is expected to be sentenced Sept. 25.
The trial, heard by Associate Judge Terry Cundiff, featured X-rays of the dead dog, a detective’s pictures of the dead dog, and testimony from the woman who was smacked over the head repeatedly by the dead dog.
"She’s somebody I never want to be in the presence of again," the victim, Linda Hulsey, said shakily afterwards. Hulsey, 33, now lives in Alabama.
The assault happened at Hulsey’s home in St. Peters on June 7, a few days after Hopfer bought the puppy from her. Hopfer said after she bought the dog, which she named Chloe, she brought it to a veterinarian, who said it was only four weeks old and needed to be returned to its mother. But sometime during the night, the dog died.
Hulsey testified the dog was six weeks old. She said early that morning, somebody rang her doorbell repeatedly. She opened the door to Hopfer, who reportedly said, "Look what you did!" Hopfer hit her in the head with a bag, which contained the dead dog, Hulsey said.
Husley said Hopfer pushed her into a wall and the two scuffled in the foyer and down the steps of the split-level home. Hopfer yelled and took the dog out of the bag and rubbed it in Husley’s face and hit her with it, Hulsey said. They tussled their way outside.
"All I could do was sit when I got outside and put my head down," Hulsey said. Hopfer then grabbed Hulsey’s hair, pulled her head up with it, and hit her in the head at least 30 times with the dog, Hulsey said.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Landing In a Tale

"And we shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started. But I suppose it's often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things [people] went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually--their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those that just went on--and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same--like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?"

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Little Whiff of Wonder: Recovering the Earth, the Body and the Hope of Resurrection

Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow, tells the story of a young man who flirts with the notion of becoming a preacher before deciding to become the only barber in the small community of Port Township.

Jayber reflects on his brief stay at Pigeonville College, where young men are trained to become preachers:

“I wish I could give you the right description of that atmosphere. It was soapy and paperish and shut-in and a little stale. It didn’t smell of anything bodily or earthly. A little whiff of tobacco smoke would have done wonders for it. The main thing was that it made me feel excluded from it, even while I was in it….

I took to studying the ones of my teachers and preachers who were also preachers and also the preachers who came to speak in chapel and at various exercises. In most of them I saw the old division of body and soul that I had known at The Good Shepherd. The same rift ran through everything at Pigeonville College; the only difference was that I was able to see it more clearly, and to wonder at it. Everything bad was laid on the body, and everything good was credit to the soul. It scared me a little when I realized that I saw it the other way around. If the soul and the body really were divided, then it seemed to me that all the worst sins – hatred and anger and self-righteousness and even greed and lust – came from the soul. But these preachers I’m talking about all thought that the soul could do no wrong, but always had its face washed and its pants on and was in agony over having to associate with the flesh and the world. And yet these same people believed in the resurrection of the body.”

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why Chuck Noland Talks to His Volleyball

A recent article I wrote on solitude and friendship can be found offsite at

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Here are a few savory excerpts from Marilynne Robinson’s book, Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005.

“How do you tell a scribe from a prophet?....The prophets love the people they chastise.”

“If you want to inform yourselves as to the nature of hell, don’t hold your hand in a candle flame, just ponder the meanest, most desolate place in your soul.”

“Grace is not so poor a thing that it cannot present itself in any number of ways.”

“That’s the strangest thing about this life, about being in the ministry. People change the subject when they see you coming. And then sometimes those very same people come into your study and tell you the most remarkable things. There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that. A lot of malice and dread and guilt, and so much loneliness, where you wouldn’t really expect to find it, either.”

Saturday, August 19, 2006

What is Saving Your Life Now?

“Many years ago now, when I was invited to speak at a church gathering, my host said, ‘Tell us what is saving your life now.’  It was such a good question that I have made a practice of asking others to answer it even as I continue to answer it myself.  Salvation is so much more than many of its proponents would have us believe.  In the Bible, human beings experience God’s salvation when peace ends war, when food follows famine, when health supplants sickness and freedom trumps oppression.  Salvation is a word for the divine spaciousness that comes to human beings in all the tight places where their lives are at risk, regardless of how they got there or whether they know God’s name.  Sometimes it comes as an extended human hand and sometimes as a bolt from the blue, but either way it opens a door in what looked for all the world like a wall. This is the way of life, and God alone knows how it works.

Although we might use different words to describe it, most of us know what is killing us.  For some it is the deadly rush of our lives; for others it is the inability to move.  For some it is the prison of our possessions; for others the crushing poverty that dooms our children to more of the same.   Few of us can choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we respond to them.  To be saved is not only to recognize an alternative to the deadlines pressing down upon us but also to be able to act upon it.  Even those who have no choice but to be carried toward safety on stretchers will eventually be given the chance to take up their mats and walk, and even those who whose legs still will not work can discover agile a healed spirit can be.”  Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church

Monday, August 14, 2006

Wendell Berry Was Right

Technology can foster an illusion that we are omnipresent – that I can be wherever I want, whenever I want. Since its inception, television and VCRs and DVD players, for example, have allowed us an escape from the here and now so that we can spend an hour or two somewhere else at some other time – in Mayberry (Andy Griffith Show) or at a bar in Boston (Cheers) or an apartment in New York (Seinfeld) or a football stadium or southern Lebanon or in the land of Narnia.

Computers and cell phones allow us the convenience of conversing with people on the other side of the globe. iPods transport us out of the moment through the pleasure of music. "Boring" plane rides are brought to life through listening to The Boss. These are welcome advances, undoubtedly. But there are some unintended consequences to these inventions. Now, our attention is easily diverted to the thousand and one different matters that occupy space in our brain and demand our time. We wake up each morning having to exercise dominion over our ever-growing cyber-kingdom. In the pressure to be ever-present there and then we become never-present here and now. We frequently become spaced out, distracted, inattentive to what is local and immediate. While talking on our cell phone, we ignore the young lady working the register at the grocery store. While traveling on vacation, our children miss the landscape of Colorado because they are watching the underwater world of Bikini Bottom.

The PTA’s latest advertising campaign proposes a simple test to prove these points.