Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Year in Review...

Top of 2008

1. Caleb Derek Shelby was born on July 4.
2. My grandfather, Charles Ancel Shelby, died on December 1.
3. My brother Matt deployed (again) to Iraq and should be home in a few months.
4. Birthday's and Anniversary. 9 years married, Hannah is 6, Adam is 3, Nicole is 28, and I am 32.
5. Hannah and Adam completed their first multi-day backpacking trip.
6. Been up to Ontario at least once per month this year and the family says we still don't see them enough. Hello Utah...

1. Pork and Beans by Weezer (it would take the top music video honors as well)

2. You're Gonna Go Far, Kid - The Offspring

3. Paper Planes - M.I.A.
4. Leave Out All The Rest - Lincoln Park
5. I'm Yours - Jason Mraz
6. Broken - Seether

Honorable Mention: Handlebars - Flobots, Bartender Song - Rehab, Hot-n-Cold - Katy Perry, You Found Me - The Fray, Love Lockdown - Kanye West, Scars on Broadway - They Say, Whatever You Like - T.I., Shake It - Metro Station,

1. All-American Girl - Carrie Underwood
All-American Girl - Carrie Underwood
2. Don't Think I Don't Think About It - Darius Rucker (Yes, the former frontman of Hootie and the Blowfish put out the first solo that hit Country Billboard #1 by an African American since Charley Pride 's "Night Games" in September 1983)

3. Love Don't Live Here Anymore - Lady Antebellum
4. Roll With Me - Montgomery Gentry
5. God Love Her - Toby Keith
Honorable Mention: I Saw God Today - George Strait, Good Time - Alan Jackson, Back When I Knew It All - Montgomery Gentry, Just A Dream - Carrie Underwood

TV Shows:
1. The Office (NBC)

2. Survivor (CBS)
3. How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
4. Lost (ABC)
5. Battlestar Galactics (SciFi)
6. House (FOX)
7. Eli Stone (ABC-stands for Already Been Cancelled)
8. Life (NBC)
9. Kitchen Nightmares (Fox)
10. 30 Rock (NBC)

11. Chuck (NBC)
12. Heroes (NBC)
13. The Unit (CBS)
14. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
15. Fringe (FOX)
Honorable Mention: Worst Week (CBS), Life on Mars (ABC), Hell's Kitchen (FOX), Weeds (Showtime), Californication (Showtime), Dexter (Showtime)

1. Iron Man
2. In Bruges - Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson
3. Juno (small release Dec 2007 but went wide release Jan 2008)
4. Batman: The Dark Knight
5. Wanted
6. No Country For Old Men
Honorable Mention: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Pineapple Express, Be Kind Rewind, Quantum of Solace, Step Brothers, Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E, The Incredible Hulk,

Movies of 2009 at the top of my "MUST SEE" list:
1. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince

2. Star Trek

3. Watchmen

4. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
5. G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra
6. Angels and Demons
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
8. Taken
9. The Soloist
10. Sherlock Holmes
Honorable Mention: Che, Race to Witch Mountain, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans,

Happy New Year to all,
Most sincerest regards,
TJ Shelby

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The What and Why of Christmas

Re-posted from 2007...

Last week we had a couple of Jehovah Witnesses knock on our door. Personally knowing the emotions and labor that accompanies door-knocking to spread the gospel news, I invited them in and offered a drink. The discussion went as you might think between a Mormon family and two Jehovah Witnesses. We agreed to disagree on many points of Biblical interpretation. Being December, we began to discuss their religion's teaching to not celebrate holidays and, in particular, the neglect of Christmas. Being fair-minded, I will tell you that they choose not to celebrate due to their interpretation of various Biblical verses and add the comment that they simply choose to give gifts and presents throughout the year and not let the traditions of man dictate when and what they will celebrate. I applaud their thoughtful analytical process in choosing not to celebrate. However, over the following days it caused me to reconsider why I was celebrating Christmas and what Christmas means to me.

I understand that evolution of Pagan celebrations and rituals have brought us to our current tradition of Christmas. I'm actually okay with that. So the Romans celebrated Saturnalia in a fashion more closely related to a week of Mardi Gras type partying. That's cool. The Christians then wanted to bring in some Roman converts and incorporated the week long festival into celebrating the birthday of Christ. They worshipped the trees, so let's bring in a tree and decorate it. I understand that. Nicolas born in Turkey, becomes Bishop of Myra, honored position on the council of Nicaea (that was the council that decided what letters and scripts to put into a compilation that would come to be known as the Holy Bible), he dies, and gains a following that over the next 700 to 800 years combines a few different histories contributing to the characteristics of Saint Nicholas, who received Saintdom in early 19th century. In 1809 Washington Irving writes "Knickerbocker History" which refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus. Having read this, Dr. Clement Moore in 1822, writes the epic poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas," or as it is most commonly referred today, "Twas The Night Before Christmas." Add some more about Coca Cola's involvement with the marketing of Santa's image, the advent of Rudolph and Frosty, the numerous classic Christmas movies, a couple of NFL football games and you have a Christian American Christmas tradition.

Just because it came from Paganism and is now being exploited by Capitalists should we now shun the celebration? Are our Jehovah Witness friends right in their refusal to celebrate? Heck, my own ward here in Oceanside banned Santa Claus from our church Christmas party. What is this world coming to? I propose that Christmas is not in need of a restoration as there was no true definitive Christmas established to return to. Therefore, reforming Christmas, as the Christian world has been doing and will continue to do is what is required to instill the purity of Christ-worship during the Christmas season. Will there be those who miss the mark? Of course, just as there are differing levels of commitment in varying Christian congregations. Will there be those who overdue it in their zeal and seek to isolate Christ as the only acceptable figure of celebration during Christmas? Of course! How do you ban Santa from a Christmas party? What's next...ban Harry Potter? Alright, I'll save that debate for a different blog.

Christmas is the time of year when we can realign our focus to be more in line with our beliefs. As one Mormon authority, Hugh B. Brown once said, "For one day, at least, Christendom practices Christianity." How many non-believers are reminded once a year that a Savior was born as a babe in Bethlehem? How many contributions and various charitable work is contributed in the month of December every year? I suppose once Christ comes again it won't be necessary for Christians to celebrate Christmas but until then, what is the harm?

Do we worship Santa? Of course not. John A. Widtsoe, a mormon apostle and respected scientist, once said, "We live in a world of symbols. We know nothing, except by symbols. No one finds fault with the symbols on the pages of a book because they are not as mighty in their own beauty as the things the represent...There are some men who object to Santa Claus, because he does not exist! Such men need spectacles to see that Santa Claus is a symbol; a symbol of the love and joy of Christmas and the Christmas spirit."

I love the stories of Santa Claus. A jolly old man who brings joy and cheer throughout the world by giving gifts to good little boys and girls. Newer interpretations are even incorporating Santa's help in the spread of Christianity (see C.S. Lewis's tale of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe). I love that during this season mankind thinks more about giving than receiving. I love the spirit of Dickens "A Christmas Carol." I love watching movies that spread happiness and delight. I wish that the spirit would permeate throughout the year. Unfortunately, the words spoke many, many years ago… "There is no room at the inn" are still being spoke today by far too many people. There is no room for Christ in the commercialistic Christmas season, there is no room for Him in the selfish heart, there is no room for Him but during Sunday worship, and there is no room for Him in schools and government. Christmas helps remind me that I need to find room in my faith and actions for Christ lest I hear the words of James echo in my ears, "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"

Boyd K. Packer, a current Mormon apostle, has said, "The whole account - from Bethlehem to Calvary - is the Christmas story, and it takes simple, childlike, almost na├»ve faith to know it…" Christmas is more than celebrating the birth of the Savior for without His death and resurrection, the story remains untold. I choose to celebrate His life and what He taught. I celebrate that through Him we, as mortals, can overcome the two things we cannot for ourselves - sin and death. Jesus Christ has opened the gates of heaven and made possible the way to return. I do know that Christ is our Savior and Redeemer and I know that He lives. May we praise Him and I invite you all to define the what and why of your own Christmas story. In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, everyone!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

#1 - It's a Wonderful Life

What a wonderful reminder that I watch every year to remind myself that I do matter in people's lives. While life has a tendency to beat us up and make us feel small and inconsequential, the reality is that each and every single one of us touches the lives of others every day, whether we realize it or not. There are those who love us, need us and want us in their lives. The world is a better place because we are alive and doing our best to live good lives.

May we all find the desire for life that George Bailey realized was residing within him.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

#2 - Gremlins

Christmas monster/horror flick. Need I say any more? Coming in to this holiday season, this is the movie I was most anticipating watching again. And it didn't disappoint...

Original Trailer:


Kitchen scene:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to my brother, Matthew Shelby

This goes out to my brother Matt serving in the Marine Corps away from his family on his birthday and Christmas in the Middle East. We love you, we're proud of you, and we want you to come home safe.

My brother loves Larry the Cable Guy. Here are some redneck Christmas carols...

This one goes out to my brother and all our men and women in the service:

My brother has a border-line unhealthy love affair with Garth Brooks. Here are a few Christmas offerings from Garth.
Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy:
Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy - Garth Brooks

Baby Jesus is Born:
Baby Jesus Is Born - Garth Brooks

My brother has been a San Francisco 49ers fan since birth. Now since Matt has been alive, the 49ers have a record of 272-183-1 (2008 stats excluded) and have won 5 Super Bowls. We still have a healthy debate and rivalry between my Dallas Cowboys (also 5 Super Bowls). During Matt's life, the two teams have only faced 4 times in the playoffs, with each team winning twice. Whoever has won the matchup has gone on to win the Super Bowl that year. Joining the Marine Corps hasn't been good for Matt's status as a 49er fan. Since joining the Marines, the 49ers are 18-46 (2008 not included).

Here is a Frosty the Snowman rendition from current 49ers:

Since his high school days trying his best to look like Kurt Cobain, my brother has loved Nirvana. Here is a Christmas message from Nirvana.

And I am throwing this one in just to make my mom cry:

Are they having fun out there? Let a Marine explain how fun it is:

Friday, December 19, 2008

#5 - Mickey's A Christmas Carol

Every December I read Charles Dickens wonderful tale "A Christmas Carol." It is definitely in my top 5 list of all time favorite books. That being said, it has been adopted into numerous theatrical and cinematic versions. Since a child, this has been one of my favorite versions.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

#6 - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Christmas Vacation: I believe this is my father-in-law's favorite Christmas movie...

Just browsing:

Dinner Scene:

Ha ha ha:

Jelly of the Month Club...and freak-out:


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

#7 - A Christmas Story

"You'll Shoot Your Eye Out Kid..."

Triple Dog Dare:

"Fragile - That must be Italian."

Mommy's Little Piggie":

Fa ra ra ra ra:

Monday, December 15, 2008

#9 - White Christmas

Bing - solo

The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing:

Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep:


Friday, December 12, 2008

My top 12 favorite Christmas movies - #12 The Grinch

How do I get in the Christmas spirit? I watch Christmas movies. Here is my ode to the 12 days of edition. My top 12 favorite Christmas films, one day at a time.

Honorable mentions that did not make the top 12 include: The Santa Clause, Scrooged, Die Hard, Jingle All The Way, Bad Santa, Edward Scissorhands, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Ernest Saves Christmas, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Movie #12: How The Grinch Stole Christmas
The live version with Jim Carey. This has quickly risen in the ranks into the December rotation probably because I have kids that are getting older. I still find it funny though.

or if you are a traditionalist, I will put this on for you...

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Just shut up and be delicious" - Dwight K. Shrute

Deleted Scene from recent episode of The Office:

60 years ago today...Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

When faith and reason collide...

I accept that I have a spiritual foundation that relies upon no amount of physical evidence. I can deal with that because physical evidence cannot challenge my basis for belief in Deity.

Religion and faith, it seems, do not require logic, reason or, at times, even common sense.

That perplexes me.

What do we do when physical evidence directly challenges the beliefs, doctrines and dogma that the Church, and we as it's members, embrace?

What do you do?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Birthday Post 2008

It's my birthday and, for the life of me, I can't think of what would be fun to post about. Posting about how cool I am seems needlessly arrogant because anyone who knows me doesn't need convincing. Posting about cool memories of the last 32 years seems like something I will be doing once my last kid finally leaves the house, so why do it now? Besides, in a recent conversation with a friend, she commented on how blogging seems to have become so meaningless and I am leaning towards agreeing with her.

(TANGENT: Click Here to see who else I share my birthday with.)

I imagine this global audience reading my every word between here and myspace but my blog tracking software shows somewhere between 30-60 readers and I'm guessing that 10-15 of those are family who either don't relate to or are offended by half the stuff I post anyways. So is blogging just another online time waster? What else do I do that wastes time and doesn't contribute to my health?

(TANGENT: To explain my bond with Bob Marley, I offer the following. On the day I was born, Marley, his wife, and manager Don Taylor were wounded in an assault by unknown gunmen inside Marley's home. Taylor and Marley's wife sustained serious injuries, but later made full recoveries. Bob Marley received minor wounds in the chest and arm. It was two days before "Smile Jamaica", a free concert organized by the Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley in an attempt to ease tension between two warring political groups, The shooting was thought to have been politically motivated, as many felt the concert was really a support rally for Manley. Nonetheless, the concert proceeded, and an injured Marley performed as scheduled, two days after the attempt. The members of the group Zap Pow – which had no radical religious or political beliefs – played as Bob Marley's backup band before a festival crowd of 80,000 while members of the Wailers were still missing or in hiding.)

I am 32 years old now. Let's aim high and say that I will function productively up to the age of 80. I have already used up 40% of my life expectancy. Am I happy were I am at? (That was an introspective pondering that made the final cut but not meant to be answered in front of my millions of readers).

(TANGENT: Click Here to see the first image that Google provides for December 3, 1976.)

I have 60% of my life left. If you knew you only had 48 years to live, what would you do?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Short Story Contest Submission - The Path of Substitution

As an aspiring writer with numerous projects started and zero finished, I set a goal to actually finish something. I also figured the easiest way to do that was to start small. Initially, I tinkered with the idea of completing a 6 issue comic series but then I happened across an advertisement for a short story competition offered by Writer's Digest. The premise was simple: 1500 words or less and make it good. Last year there were 6,805 submissions and the best 25 will receive some type of prize. Without further ado, here is my submission. I hope you enjoy it.

The Path of Substitution

The crisp morning air filled Javier’s lungs as he began his daily ritual. He entered the pathway at the opening marked by the green forestry sign “Substitution Trail.” The daily jog through the heavily wooded park had become such a defining part of who Javier was. Having spent many years overweight, Javier was quickly approaching his 3rd anniversary as “born again thin.” The soft thuds of his shoes echoed off the highly traveled path leading into the lush forest. The tall awkward runner paid no attention to the small animals scurrying through the bushes lining both sides of the two-foot wide dirt path.

Javier wondered why he continued to pursue this wild-goose chase. The mysterious gentleman said this was the trail that would show him his purpose in life. However, he had been traversing this very same path for the last thirty-one months, with only Sundays as his rest period. Javier realized, yet again, that he still had not experienced a life-changing epiphany, or even a newly discovered reason for living. He questioned if it was simply a ploy to maintain the constant vigil of exercise but quickly dismissed that notion as poppycock. The man in the shiny silver suit certainly did not have a vested interest in my sustained fitness, thought Javier.

Meanwhile, the pre-dawn darkness had painted the immediate forestry. Into the distance dawn had appeared to break on a far distant section of the trail. A smile appeared as he imagined himself in a magical tunnel of shrubbery. What would he find when he arrived at the light? A royal feast of kingly proportions? That’s just what ‘Fat Javier’ would say, he thought to himself. How about a leprechaun and his pot of gold? ‘The love of money is the root of all evil,’ the words of his childhood pastor strangely rang into memory. Oh, even better, he lustfully mused, what if it is a fountain of youth populated by a personal harem of nymphomaniac mermaids?

The fore distant light had grown brighter and snapped him out of his debauched daydream. How was the light even entering into there? Javier had never seen that much light in that section of the trail. Maybe the forestry service had cut down a few trees and the light was now a welcomed guest into the dark forest section of the trail. He would know in a few minutes time. Javier set into jogging stride and without effort his mind drifted back to the night he met the bald man in the sparkling suit.

Javier remembered opening his eyes in the recovery room following his successful gastro-bypass surgery. His doctor had told him that without the surgery it would only be a matter of time. His internal organs simply could not sustain the weight and pressures being put upon them. Comfortably resting in recovery, Javier contemplated what new adventures awaited him and his new body. He could do all of those things he had dreamed about as a child and teenager but could not do as an adult. Javier promised himself right then and there that he would always be in control of his life from this point forward.

A loud snapping twig broke Javier out of the recollection. He was about halfway to the light now and would be there in a matter of minutes. He let his body focus back into the routine of jogging and allowed his mind to again summon up the memory of that night. He remembered that his nurse was asking about liquid and food. She was very pretty and as she exited the room Javier wondered if he would have opportunities with women of her caliber now that he had a new body.

He struggled to push his weight up by his elbows into a sitting position, wipep away the sleep from his eyes, and is startled by a sleek stunningly dressed man standing beside his neighbor’s bed with an unlit cigarette in his mouth. “Hello Javier. My name is Trent Lane. Would you like to hear a story?”

Trent Lane proceeded to repeat the same lines, without variance, for nearly ten minutes and responded to no questioning. Javier had no choice but to listen. He snapped out of the reminiscence and was back on the trail. He could not forget those lines if he tried. They had led him to this path but had not yet yielded the promised answers. In almost melodic tune, the memorized words now audibly escaped the jogger’s lips:

“Knowing where to stand and when to fly
Are invented axioms that bind.
Righteous opposition is a lie
But faith can betray the heart and mind.

“A man who uses his feet to run
Insures the protection of his mind.
Follow the path of substitution;
Destiny and purpose will he find.”

The moment Javier finished the words, a beam of light shot from the source ahead and moved down the trail toward him with such blinding speed he could not even muster a scream of fear. It collided with him and knocked him off his feet. His back arched, the scream finally escaped his vocal box but Javier realized he was not in pain. Instinctively, he ran his hands quickly over his body to check for wounds to no avail. The realization hit him that he was not touching the ground. He tried not to let panic overcome him as the beam was slowly transporting him towards the spring of light.

The closer Javier got to the light source; a shape began to take form. The brightness began to fade and the figure gained contours. “Trent Lane?” asked Javier, “Is that you?” The sharply dressed man in a three button suit stepped forward, tipped his hat and said, “Hello Javier. It’s been awhile, has it not?”

“What is this? What are you doing here?”

“I am here to reveal your destiny.”

“My destiny? I have been coming here for almost three years because of your damn poem. It took me some time to figure it out but I did. I have been running this trail for so long I almost forgot why I was doing it.”

“Today was the first time you triggered the lock by vocalizing the password.”

“The password?”

“The poem, as you say. It unlocks a door.”

“A door to what? Why have you sent me here? What is this place?”

“Javier, I do not have much time. Please listen carefully. You are dead and I am here to send you back.”

Javier fell to his knees in unbelief. How does one respond to that?

Trent Lane continued, “You do not belong here. Not yet. This is a station of transition. You still have a purpose to accomplish. You have unlocked the door that will allow you to return and fulfill your purpose.”

“What is my purpose?”

A blinding explosion of light crashed over Javier and he immediately felt the pains of life wash over him. His eyes blinked open as an oxygen mask was forced onto his face. He was on a gurney and could see hospital walls whizzing by as travel scenery. Javier vaguely made out the conversation around him. “What the deal here?” “Massive heart attack. The fat bastard’s heart probably couldn’t take it anymore.”

Doors parted and he was transferred to a different gurney. Javier saw himself in the mirror above, obese and aged. “That’s not me,” Javier mentally screamed. “I am past this stage, that’s not me.” In the mirror, Javier saw a calm well-dressed man enter into view amongst the chaotic organization of the doctors prepping the room.

With a hint of panic, Javier pleaded, “Trent, what is this? You said you were sending me back. This isn’t me.”

No one seemed able to hear Javier except Trent Lane. The rest of the room paid no attention to the visitor. Trent Lane’s bald figure bent his lanky frame, his mouth near Javier’s ear and whispered, “Destiny is in the hands of the individual. One can either accept their version of reality or they can choose to see things for what they really are.”

“My destiny is mine to choose? I do not choose this,” Javier emphatically stated.

“Then you have made your choice.”

“I don’t understand what the hell you are talking about!”

“See that’s the thing about destiny. Destiny is the path but once you enter that path you cannot control the destination. You were dead Javier but you were cheating Death.”

“You said I was dead, how is that cheating?”

“The purpose of life is not only to die but to experience Death.”

A nurse yelled out, “He’s flat-lining.” Javier vaguely heard a doctor call “Clear” and tried to shock him back into mortality. Trent Lane lit his cigarette, turned and walked away. Euphoria began coating Javier’s senses as reality faded and illusory nirvana settled in.

Javier, nearly three years thin, smiles while jogging on the Substitution Trail.