Monday, September 22, 2014

The Facts of Life

On September 15, 2014, in Beverly Hills, California, The Paley Center for Media held a 35th-anniversary Facts of Life reunion, which featured a screening of a classic episode of the series followed by a panel discussion with Charlotte Rae, Nancy McKeon, Mindy Cohn, Geri Jewell and, of course, Lisa Whelchel. (To be sure, Lisa would probably be jealous of all the commas in that sentence.) Two friends and I attended. In fact, we purchased the last three tickets available approximately 20 minutes after they went on sale to the public. It was clearly a major (gay-jor) event.

Because of the lingering (minuscule) infamy of this blog, several of my friends wondered if I was going to finally introduce myself to Miss Whelchel. I thought why not, but the more wise consensus was that she would probably murder me on the spot or at least have me escorted from the premises if she knew that the author of the blog that for a short period of time ridiculed her every word, photo, trip, comma, was in the audience. Better to remain anonymous. Better to just enjoy.

Briefly, Blair was never even my favorite Facts of Life girl. Jo was. (Of course! We are both snippy and gay!) Nor was I a superfan of the show—I was too young to have watched it from its debut. My introduction to it was probably the third or fourth season. But I stayed with it lovingly till the end when Cloris Leachman and Over Our Heads took the place of Charlotte Rae and Edna’s Edibles. My involvement with Lisa Whelchel and the creation of this site happened more because she was a born-again Christian who kept an honest (sometimes painfully so) online journal called Coffee Talk that greatly detailed her and her family’s very southern, very un-cosmopolitan adventures. I found it naively and inadvertently hilarious, and I thought I would, you know, spread the gospel.

Unfortunately, for Lisa, she kept this journal during the mid-2000s, the height of snark. Gawker and Defamer were dealing, respectively, East- and West-Coast bitchery in daily doses, and sites like Perez Hilton, Just Jared and D-Listed were reaching the peak of their celebrity-trashing. During this time, I kept a blog called Nervous Breakdown that aimed to be something comparable. (It was a delight to produce, and I am still impressed that I kept it going on a daily basis for three years since I now have the attention span of a hummingbird.) From Nervous Breakdown came the Blair Necessities, on which I formalized and serialized the Coffee Talk Companion—a feature commenting on, paragraph by paragraph, Lisa Whelchel's own online journal entries. In a few weeks, the Blair Necessities garnered more attention than Nervous Breakdown had in its several years of publication, and since we all want attention, I went full-force. As long as Lisa blogged, I commented. It got to the point that if you searched "Lisa Whelchel" on Google, the Blair Necessities was the top result, even above It was a hit. It also most likely was the cause of Lisa Whelchel password-protecting her personal entries on her site and then, with the advent of Twitter, ceasing to blog altogether. The Blair Necessities was both a success and failure for me: I was more popular than my beautiful subject, and because of that, my subject stopped feeding me.

If you’ve never been to this site before, you can read some old entries. My writing is fine. It’s occasionally funny, I guess. I don't know—it was eight years ago. We were younger. I do think that I avoided being blatantly mean to or about Lisa. (You may disagree, and I may agree with your disagreement, but I did shut off the comment feature when people began getting truly angry and nasty.) This site was my attempt at cashing in on snark, and its success was due to the fact that I found a niche. And, lucky for me, the niche was an impossibly beautiful girl everyone my age either had at one point envied or fell in love with and who had gone from gorgeous celeb to everyday wife and mother of three. And this wife and mother journaled publicly and without irony about her domestic, hyper-religious, non-glamorous life.

To me, the real overall point (or perhaps the justification of my snarkiness, which I needed because of my ever-present Jewish guilt) of the Blair Necessities was to point out something that has only gotten more egregious: If you voluntarily post information online, people are going to look at it, and you really can’t be surprised when they react to it. However, to most people, I was simply being an entertaining bitch. It probably bothered me a little then, though the attention I was getting because of it made it difficult to admit. It definitely bothers me now.

The truth is, I adore Lisa Whelchel and deep down always have. Seriously. There’s plenty about her way of life that I don’t agree with, but she has turned out to be a happy, funny, charming, kind, warm woman who, most impressive of all, survived child-stardom. I do not deny that her Coffee Talk entries were manna from comedy heaven. (Especially that mother-daughter bike trip in Vermont. Oh, that glorious, glorious bike trip.) But she made it through a machine that now, more than ever before, is both a figurative and literal killer. And she raised three kids who love her. And she almost won Survivor. And she still looks great. Like, fucking great.

And this is what was so apparent at the Paley Center reunion. All the women there (and Kim Fields via a taped segment) were, by their admission, taken care of by Charlotte Rae and many other people on the set. They were nurtured and protected by responsible adults who made sure that in 2014, they would be sitting in front of me looking better than ever and finding it nearly impossible to say anything bad or negative or…snarky about each other. They had long since departed the Facts of Life but somehow were still teaching 150 of us the facts of life. We had all grown, and suddenly a fun night with some former TV stars became, unexpectedly, something more. 

Is this an apology to Lisa Whelchel for my year of mostly toothless haranguing at her expense? If I offended her and her family or, worse, made them feel unsafe, then absolutely it is. Nothing like that was ever my intention, nor did it occur to me that it could be. I do still think that if you willingly put your life online (and that includes photos of your meals and braids and vaginas on Facebook and Instagram), then you have to, sorry, take the good and take the bad. Unfortunately, most people are terrible. And worse than that, they can’t spell or form a sentence. But they all have opinions and iPhones. And they’re anonymous. So, it’s easy for them to ridicule and judge without any ramification. The good news is that snark is out of style. The bad news is that so is style. Flat-out heckling is now what we do, and there's nothing stylish about heckling.

But I think that most of all, this late entry is a celebration of how a group of girls that I grew up with, including Lisa Whelchel, whom I later publicly shamed for a year, maintained their integrity, beauty and intelligence and came out on top. I was excited about going to the Paley Center reunion, but I didn’t think it would have such an enlightening effect on me. That may sound very “MARY!”, and I would not fault you for thinking that. But it was invigorating and reassuring seeing my childhood TV friends as functional, emotional, inspirational adults. Especially Lisa. 

At one point during the discussion, the moderator asked if a show like the Facts of Life could be made now. Lisa said absolutely not unless everyone was naked. (She was full of zingers the entire evening. Her comic timing was always pretty special, and it still is.) Charlotte Rae, on the other hand, admitted that apart from Modern Family, she doesn’t watch sitcoms because “they’re all crap" (applause). She thought that a show as wholesome and funny as the Facts of Life not only could be made now, but is desperately wanted. Realistically, she’s probably wrong. But sitting there in that room with a bunch of girls I only knew from TV and one I was a dick to for no reason except to be en vogue, I hoped that she was absolutely, positively right.

Seven years after the previous post, this is the Blair Necessities’ last entry. Take care of each other. Be funny. Be smart. Be a bitch and then know when to admit that you were a bitch. The facts of life? They’re all about you.


Matt Cohen 9/17/14

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Coffee Talk Companion: "The Yenta Tour: Exodus!"

Well, folks, Lisa’s summer tour comes to an end here, and fortunately, so does the Companion. While the world is certainly a better place without either our or Lisa’s contributions, it was nice to have her back for a bit, n'est-ce pas? After all, we knew she couldn’t keep quiet for too long. Thanks again for tuning in, and we promise threaten to come back as soon as Lisa does. Which should be in two months. At most.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Today was our last day of touring and the convention and we packed it full to the very last possible minute. This morning session was the most meaningful of the week for me. The message was exactly what the Lord has been speaking to my heart. The text was Acts 1 and Joshua 1. Pastor Glenn Burris, Jr’s three main points were ones that I’m going to continue to hang onto during this season of my life. In talking about God’s relationship in the lives of the Jewish people, and ultimately, in ours as believers he says, “In the brokenness, God sent a promise. In the barreness, He sent His presence. In breakthrough, He sent the power.”

In the name of god, someone send us a Xanax. Here, Lisa demonstrates one of her few non-scrapbooking skills: She is one of a handful of people capable of making less sense than a priest.

The convention wrapped up with a beautiful time of taking communion together and powerful prayer for Israel.

Unfortunately, that powerful prayer for Israel was completely eclipsed by the rest of Israel praying that Lisa would scram already.

The first touring stop of the day was Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. I have visited other Holocaust museums in various cities but this one is, by far, the best one. I wish we could have stayed here all afternoon.

OK. Two things to really pay attention to:

1.) Lisa is rating Holocaust museums. As if they’re Best Westerns. Or potential death-and-resurrection-of-Jesus sites.

2.) “I wish we could have stayed here all afternoon” is what Lisa has to say about her experience at Yad Vashem. That’s like visiting Auschwitz and declaring, “It was SO amazing.” An unqualified “I wish we could have stayed here all afternoon” is more appropriate for a visit to, say, Busch Gardens. If you’re gonna give us an “I wish we could have stayed here all afternoon” regarding a Holocaust museum, it would behoove you to tell us why.

Also, we’ve been to a few Holocaust museums in our life, and, honestly, the prevailing thought usually is, “We have to get the fuck out of here RIGHT NOW.”

The next stop was St. Peter Gallicantu church which is the traditional site where St. Peter denied Christ. It is right beside Caiaphas’ house. My favorite part of this stop was the road leading up to the house because I could better imagine Jesus walking on this road toward Jerusalem than imagining he or Peter somewhere in this church building. I really wish they hadn’t built so many churches at all of these sites, it messes up the picture.

Too many churches in the Holy Land, Lisa? Who’d have thunk it? It seems veeeeeeery unchristian of you to be judging how many churches should be built in the Holy Land, ESPECIALLY for something as subjective as aesthetics. You do live in Texas, after all. We think that maybe if St. Peter were still around, he'd have one word for you:


Okay, so this was the surprise highlight of the whole trip. At the end of the day, one of the guys in our group suggested we go see if we could just walk up and get a tour of Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This is the tunnel that was built from the water source into the temple during Hezekiah’s reign. Then David used it later to retake the city by bringing his army through the tunnels and up through a shaft into the city walls.

Again, sounding like Manhunt. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we just keep mentioning Manhunt to the point where Lisa has no choice but to find out what it is? We think so.

Our friend, Ray, brought glow sticks for our little group and we got to walk the length of the tunnel in water that was usually up to our shins but reached to my thighs when the tunnel got really narrow. We had so much fun.

Glow sticks in an abandoned tunnel, eh, Ray? How passé.

At the end of the tunnel is the traditional site of the Pool of Siloam where the blind man washed his eyes as Jesus healed him. Nowadays, most experts don’t believe this was the real site but it was fun to wash our eyes in it anyway.

You know, we always heard that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It's refreshing to know that sometimes there's a Pool of Siloam. And it's even better to know that, as illustrated here by the washing of eyes in standing water, occasionally, stupidity punishes stupidity.

After Steve got the convention office boxed up, he was finally able to join us for one last touring stop. We met at the Western Wall and then took a very late night trip through the “Rabbi’s Tunnel.”

We’re not touching that one with a 30-foot lulav.

This tunnel takes you to the closest place the Jewish people are able to go to the Holy of Holies. The highlight of this tour was a very enlightening model of the temple mount and what it has looked like through the ages from the time Abraham offered Isaac on the altar, to the time David bought the threshing floor, to the temple sites, and now the home of the Dome of the Rock.

Well, well, well—look who’s here. Daddy! Steve finally makes an appearance after months of being MIA. Albeit it’s in the middle of the night. In Israel. But still. He showed up. For one shot. That’s saying something, especially for someone as familiar as he is with the potential final resting place of a photograph in Lisa Whelchel’s hands.

July 26, 2007

Yea, tonight we get to go home! We’ve have had the best trip ever but we are ready to get home. We all got to sleep in this morning and then we spent the day gathering some last-minute souvenirs. We went back the olivewood shop and bought a beautiful nativity set for our family. Then we went shopping in the Christian Quarter where the girls picked ups some trinkets for their friends. Then it was time to begin our long journey home. From the time we leave our hotel ‘til the moment we walk through our front door we will have been traveling over 24 hours. It sure is going to feel good to be home.

And there you have it: the Caubles in Israel. Well, at least the Israeli tchotchke economy will be secure for years. It occurs to us, too, that we finally understand why the Israeli military is the world's best. It has nothing to do with rigorous training or the mandatory service. Rather, it's because the military has to be prepared year-round for groups of loonies descending upon their New Jersey-sized country FULL of dusty, delicate architecture and artifacts. Seriously, if you found out the Caubles were coming for dinner, wouldn't you immediately roll out the plastic floor runners and Scotchgard the cat?

Please have a wonderful fall. Oh, and a lovely autumn, too. We'll be back as soon as Lisa is.

And that's a fact of chai.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Coffee Talk Companion: "The Yenta Tour: Via Dologrossa!"

Yes, there's more. No, it's not done. Yes, you can leave. No, we won't be sad. Yes, we will. No, we're not lying. Yes, we are.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Today begins our shorter tour days.


We went to the praise and worship service at 8:30, then the first session was at 9:30 and the second session was at 11:00. We boarded the tour bus at 12:30 and ate our box lunches on the way to the Old City.

Oooh, contest time! Anyone who can decipher all, or even part, of the above paragraph will win a voucher good for a year’s worth of never having to come to this site. Send your entries to with the subject heading, “Set Me Free, Why Don’t Ya, Blair?” Better yet, don’t. Unless you’re a cute, single, thirtysomething doctor. In which case, please include a photo.

We entered through the Lion’s Gate which is also the gate that was penetrated to start and ultimately win the 6-Day war.

That was the first, and last, time in history that a gate won a war. Or was it the penetration that proved successful? Is this suddenly Manhunt?

We walked through the Muslim Quarter of the Market and down the traditional Via Dolorosa stations. We visited the Holy Sepulchre Church which is where tradition has the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. I don’t know if it is or not but it is so gaudy and religiousy that I could barely even stay in there very long. It gave me a creepy feeling.

Two things: Her English is getting worse than usual. “…which is where tradition has the crucifixion and burial of Jesus”??? “I don’t know if it is or not but it is…”??? Sheesh.

More importantly, what in the ever-lovin’ world could be too “religiousy” for Lisa Whelchel? It’s not like…wait…hold on…is this what we think it is? Has Sir Tuckalot taken over the journal?! It would explain both the hyper-terrible grammar AND the sudden unreliability of the narrator. Tucker, if this is you, we forgive the bad English (you never had a chance) and commend your coup skills.

The last stop of the day before the evening session of convention was St. Anne’s Church just outside the Pools of Bethesda. My sister-in-law…

Nah. It’s Lisa. We’re pretty positive Tucker never learned the term “sister-in-law.” He certainly couldn’t hyphenate it correctly. Damn. We were momentarily so excited.

Even worse, we now have to hear about…

…Maria, sang “The Via Dolorosa” a capella within the beautiful acoustics of this church. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Had we been there, our eyes would have been so dry they would have each crawled out of our head, traveled to our ears, forced their way to our brain and slapped the shit out of our cerebral cortex for having been forced to sit through the entire number. Our brain would then chastise them for being so violent and remind them that they were looking at Justice the whole time. Our eyes would then be humbled and sulk back to their sockets, but not before laying the smack down on our bitch of a nose.

EW. (And we're not talking about the ridiculous caption.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Another short day of touring but packed with incredible times with the Lord during the convention sessions.

Remind us to ask the lord the next time we speak to him how he manages to be in so many lunatic-filled buildings all over the world at one time. And, more, why he would want to. K?

We visited this model of the Old City and that was fascinating. A part of me wishes that we had seen this place first because it really helps to put all of the different pieces together.

We once went to Old City, too! The best part was watching our friend go up on the way-tall Human Slingshot and scream her head off as she fell like a lead weight toward the ground! Or maybe it was Knives & Things! No, no, no—it was Sock Exchange!

Oh, wait, sorry, that was Old Town.

Yesterday, we visited the traditional site of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today we visited the other contenders. Gosh, these were so much better. The Golgotha site really did look like a skull and the Garden Tomb was beautiful.

Ah, how wonderful that Israel has become a reality show for Lisa. Vote for your favorite Jesus death-and-resurrection site! Too bad PAX isn’t still around; we’d totally pitch it to them. Wait. There’s ABC. Same thing.

Dude, WHAT is she wearing? It looks like Daffy's laid the smack down on Talbots, only to have Bealls try to break it up.

The convention session this evening was a musical called, “The Covenant” chronicling the history of promise of the Jewish people. It was stirring.

Yeah, sure sounds that way. You know what else is being stirred? The vodka and soda we’re preparing right now in order to make our way through the end of Lisa’s summer journal. We’re almost there, but it’s been one hell of an ordeal, as you have seen. But hang in there—the last installment is on its way. Unless we attempt an Owen Wilson. Successfully, of course (it’s the long way, Wilson! Duh!).

Too soon?



Monday, August 27, 2007

The Coffee Talk Companion: "The Yenta Tour: Breaking the Camel's Back!"

Wow! You really are godless gluttons for punishment! Without further ado, then, here's installment four. Or is it 528? It's so hard to care keep track.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wow! I can’t believe we were so close to the actual cave where David cut the piece off of King Saul’s robe when he was “doing his business.”

Whoa! We’re fairly well-versed on the Bible (not really, obviously), and even we aren’t sure what this “doing his business” insinuation refers to. However, because it’s the Bible, we feel comfortable assuming it has to do with murder, fire or homosexuality.

Like yesterday’s visit to Gideon Springs, it will be so cool to be able to envision the real spot in my mind’s eye when I read these Scripture passages.

It’s “Gideon’s Spring,” lady, not “Gideon Springs.” It’s not a fucking hospice.

After a very hot visit to Masada (120 degrees) Tucker and Justice ran down the mountain! They are crazy. I can’t wait to rent this movie and watch it again after having visited the actual fortress.

Yeah, just like when we visited Paris and then made a beeline for Blockbuster to rent French Kiss. Oooooooooh, she’s making us mad again.

Okay, this is the funniest thing I think I’ve ever done – floating in the Dead Sea! It is so weird how it is actually impossible to go under water. You really can sit down like you are in a chair.

Au contraire, Lisa Diane. The funniest thing you’ve ever done is to keep a blog. It’s weird how you think floating in the Dead Sea is the funniest thing you’ve ever done. The truth, weirdly enough, is that funny isn’t…oh, hold on…

Sha-lom, Justice!

What were we saying?

One of the pastors on our bus gathered a bunch of the mud and we had too much fun! And our skin really did feel fabulous after we rinsed it off. I bought packets of mud and jars of the sea salt to take home to my girlfriends. A little Dead Sea spa party in the comfort of home.

Wait, what happened to Rami? Did he finally see the badges and flee? We're so proud of you, Ram. So proud! Listen, Rami, if you’re reading this, there are three places you need to avoid if the Caubles ever return to Israel (and, don’t worry, there’s not a very good chance they’ll have the money to ever return): biblical sites, malls and fast-food restaurants. The next time the Caubles come to Israel, just hunker down in a four-star restaurant in a cosmopolitan area of town.

Ew. OK. If there’s any Justice in the world, he’ll never do that again. It’s given us a Casey of the shivers.

Our last stop of the day was at a great gift shop that specialized in selling olivewood nativity sets and other traditional Jerusalem souvenirs.

Oh, and gift shops, Rami. Four places. Sorry.

I really wanted to buy a shofar but they were very expensive.

Not to mention a fucking bitch to get on a plane.

Tucker had the best time of all just playing with all of the stuff for sale.

Oh, no, Sir Tuckalot! Do not let your kindergarten-level education affect you now! You’re too close to freedom! Too close! And don't be fooled by your mom's kindergarten-level nickname for you—that getup has nothing whatsoever to do with the Knights of the Round Table or even anything factually medieval. It's more of the Roman ilk. But screw geography, chronology and even history, right? Jesus is more fun than reality!

Oh, and we must take this moment to express our growing fatigue at Lisa's written use of the colloquial "of." It's not "all of the stuff for sale"; it's "all the stuff for sale." And it's not "cut the piece off of King Saul’s robe"; it's "cut the piece off King Saul’s robe." And it's not "Please gauge both of our eyes out"; it's "Kill us."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Our first stop today was the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. We all followed tradition and wrote down prayer requests on little slips of paper and then put them in the wall and prayed.

You know, we’ve always wanted to visit the Jewish version of Santa, but we’ve never had the opportunity. We kind of hope Tucker prayed for a Wii—ours is oodles of fun.

The Garden of Gethsemane was one of the most meaningful stops so far.

Wait. Wasn’t the Garden of Gethsemane in the back of their hotel? Or was that a Garden of Gethsemane. Ah—they’ve been franchised. Makes sense, especially taking into account Lisa's rhapsodic reaction.

Rami presented another wonderful teaching and then gave us 20 minutes to each find an olive tree to sit under and have some quiet time with Jesus.

Rami! You’re still there. Idiot. OK, we’re hoping this olive tree exercise was your ultimate escape plan. "You all, go sit under a tree, and chat with Jesus. I'"

I was so glad we got a chance to ride a camel while we were in Israel. Even if it was just long enough for a photo-op.

You know what this kind of reminds us of?

This was really cool. These streets next to the temple walls have been discovered since I was in Israel 18 years ago. Now you can say with integrity that you walked where Jesus walked since there is no question that He would have taken this road many times.

Oh, nonono. We can say with integrity that We don’t believe any of this claptrap can be passed on with integrity. Especially since someone of Jesus's stature would have clearly taken a cab.

These are the Southern steps where Peter is believed to have preached his famous sermon at Pentecost.

OK. So here’s something we can stomach a little more than the preceding paragraph (though zero times anything is zero, right?): The use of the clause, “is believed.” At least we’re not being assaulted with words like “no question” and “would have.” Oh, and “integrity.”

Still, without a doubt: Come on.

The Foursquare convention (the reason we are here in the first place) started tonight. Oh my goodness, from the moment the shofars were blown from every corner, the air was electric. It is such a privilege to be in the presence of the Lord with the Body of Christ.

Speaking of getting blown from every corner, where’s Justice? Maybe we’ll find out in the next installment. Or maybe an 18-wheeler will come barreling down Park Avenue, hit a fire hydrant whose spray of water will knock a gargoyle off a building which will then fall on a hot dog cart which will start rolling into traffic which will cause a car to stop short and careen into one of those police golf carts the meter maids use to give tickets which will fly into the window of a Brooks Brothers which will make them rethink their lack of extra-small sizes which will then cause a very cute seersucker suit to be made for us for next summer which will ultimately be too small because of all the Krispy Kreme we’ll eat over the winter that it cuts off circulation to our brain and causes us to pass out and die in Alexa Ray Joel’s lap during our first visit to the Hamptons nearly a year too late for it to have any relevance to our wishing we would be killed before we had to write another installment.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Coffee Talk Companion: "The Yenta Tour: Shofar, Sho' Good!"

We’re not going to lie—this commentary is proving to be a bissel difficult. We spent so much of our childhood in Hebrew school to prepare for our Bar Mitzvah that we have heaps of unresolved anger issues with Israel. The fact that we now have to deal with Lisa rhapsodizing about it as if it were all a giant Chick-fil-A® Chargrilled Chicken Club Sandwich is a little much for us. It’s making us, shall we say, oysgematert.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We’ve been really looking forward to today because we knew we were going to get to take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

Lisa is feeling the exact excitement we feel when we go to Woodbury Common. Except she’s excited for a sea, not American Apparel clothing at Vietnamese-child-labor prices. (You know, the prices solid-color cotton-knit polo shirts should be.)

The lake is small enough that you really get a sense of wonder when you realize that you really are walking where Jesus walked. Well, actually, we just floated where Jesus walked but it was still cool. It was a great little trip with a wonderful teaching and then one of the local guys showed us how the disciples would have fished back then.

Call us scholarly, but we’re pretty sure the disciples, had they existed, would have used a rod. A rod just like the one we’d like to smack Lisa on the head with.

On the other side of the lake we went to the site of the Sermon on the Mount, Mt. Beatitude. Rami gave another great teaching and we had free time to simply find a spot in this beautiful place and meditate on these famous words. Rami showed us why this was the perfect spot acoustically for Jesus to deliver this message and how hundreds really would have been able to hear him. Fascinating.

Jesus was delivering massages?!?! What a guy! Oh... “message.” Eh. We would have crucified him, too, if we thought we were getting a massage and ended up with only a message. And then y’all could truly have blamed his death on the Jews. Oh, snap!

Then we went to the shoreline where they believe Jesus most likely met the handful of disciples after his resurrection and cooked fish for them. We even ate fish caught in the Sea of Galilee.

We had no idea there was a Long John Silver’s on the Sea of Galilee.

Next, we visited Capernaum where Jesus did the majority of his speaking. It was really cool to see ruins from an old synagogue and envision Jesus teaching with lively debate raging from the seats all around the walls.

It’s all Jesus this and Jesus that. It’s like it’s not worth seeing unless Jesus’s name is slapped on it.

Then we went to the “Jesus Boat.”

Jesus Christ.

This is where a group of young people from the local kibbutz discovered a fishing vessel that dates to the time when Jesus was walking the earth. Of course, they don’t claim that Jesus actually fished from this boat with his disciples but when we are imagining them in our mind’s eye this is the kind of boat we should be envisioning.

Because why should a.) historical fact or b.) imagination be employed? Nah. Let’s just say Jesus might have used this kind of boat which we could not have ever pictured without such a thoroughly helpful visual aid.

Honestly? You want to know what that is? It’s either an old canoe or a giant corn husk. Either way, fuck Jesus. It was Injuns, we tell ya! INJUNS!

This place also had a great gift shop so I bought olive wood bottles of anointing oil and mezuzahs from my friends at home.

Not only are we shocked that Lisa spelled “mezuzah” correctly, but we’re shocked that she bought some. Does she actually have Jewish friends? Maybe she thought they were candy bars. Or maybe she was just entranced by the shiny.

And, yes, we are aware that Lisa said “from” when she meant “for.” We can’t correct all her errors—no one wants us here longer than absolutely necessary.

Last stop was the Jordan River where my whole family decided to get rebaptized.

Did the family decide to get rebaptized, Lisa? Or did you decide that they should get rebaptized? We think maybe the latter. And, honestly, rebaptized? We rethink not.

As I wrote in my Cyber Prayer Letter last month,

Oh, shit.

“God is doing an indescribable work in my heart. When I look back, this revival in my life actually began 19 months ago, sped up last fall and then went into overdrive at the beginning of this year. I have been a Christian for 34 years and yet this is by far the most intense season of grace I have ever encountered. It feels more like a born again experience than when I was saved at the age of ten. That is the reason I have decided to get rebaptized in the Jordan River tomorrow. I’m sure I will eventually write more details sometime in the future but part of the work God is doing is revealing my sin of self-suffiency and self-protection. I have lived much of my life attempting to gain as much knowledge as possible, so I would make the right choices, in order to stay in control, so I could protect myself from getting hurt. In essence, I have desired to be my own god, rather than trust God with my wounded heart. Now, nobody would have seen this on the outside. I didn’t even recognize it in myself until recently.”

So does that means she’s an atheist? Or, er, an onaneist? We’re confused. And we’re pretty sure Lisa is, too. Like, why else would she voluntarily take a dip in a sewage canal?

I am learning so much about the freedom to really enter into the rest of God by grace rather than striving to earn God’s love and approval through the law. I wanted to be baptized again to make this statement to myself.

Too bad it wasn’t the River of Shut Up.


Friday, July 20, 2007
I’m exhausted. I don’t know if it is the jet lag or the all-day touring or the 120 degree heat but I’m pooped out. I don’t have much gumption for writing so my photo captions are going to be short and sweet tonight.


The first thing we did today was visit the ancient city of Bet Shean and then drove to the top of the Golan Heights.

You know, we have to say (mainly because we got nothin' else) that the Cauble kids really are three good-looking youngsters. Despite what they've been put through by their mother (see forced swimming in drainage ditch above for most recent example), Clancy, Haven and Tucker have turned out, aesthetically speaking, OK. You'd never know from looking at them what deep, dark secrets they're harboring. It's like Flowers in the Rectory.

After viewing a movie on the mysterious Jewish sect called the Essenes, we were able to see a handful of the actual caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

FYI, the Dead Sea Scrolls comprise approximately 900 documents. They're the Gnostic version of Coffee Talk. No wonder Lisa was so excited.

And what are these IDs the Caubles are wearing? The easy answer is that they're simply tour-group tags, but we're kind of thinking they're warning badges for the general Israeli population. (Notice how no non-Caubles appear in any of these photographs.)

Gideon Springs is one of my favorite spots so far. I love the Bible story but Rami really deepened its meaning for me as he described the process and significance of the shofar and the broken torch pots used to scatter the enemies before battle. This was one of those places that it boggles the mind to realize this is exactly where the story happened.

You know what boggles the mind? "This is exactly where the story happened."

Fortunately, to distract us from such unparalleled lunacy, we have another JusticeCasey pic.


We sure hope those waters have magical eternal-beauty powers! And we sure hope Maria stayed far, far away!

Shabbat began just as we were driving back into Jerusalem from the Tiberius region. We had a short devotional service overlooking the city and praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

You want to know the first step for peace in Jerusalem, lady? Get the hell out!

Until next time, say goodbye, Justice!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Coffee Talk Companion: "The Yenta Tour: Get Off the Bus!"

Hang in there, guys. Israel's about to get a little hotter.

Anyway, this time in correct chronological order…

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Today was a leisurely day. Steve worked all day getting the convention office set up. The kids and I went to the hotel buffet for breakfast and encountered our first encounter with non-kosher. Not only was there not any bacon but there was no meat at all because they serve dairy for breakfast. We quickly got used to lots of fruit and cheese for breakfast.

Um. We think she means she encountered her first encounter with kosher. 'Cause if the buffet were non-kosher, she would have encountered her 36-millionth encounter with meat. Well, she had a 50-50 chance of getting that one right, right? The good news is that she stopped home-schooling the kids—they now have a 50-50 chance of getting it right, too. And by “it,” we mean “running away and never looking back.”

Later in the afternoon we went to the Jerusalem mall. The weirdest thing was the food just sitting out on counters. You could simply walk by and pick up a donut or handful of candy and pay for it. We chose KFC. It was also jarring to have to walk through metal detectors before entering in most of the public buildings.

Again, it’s really so nice to have Lisa back. First of all, it's been far too many months without "weird" as a popular adjective. It's been, you know, weird.

Second of all, who else would so proudly admit on her second day in Jerusalem (and not Jerusalem, Arkansas or Jerusalem, Ohio; THE Jerusalem) that she went to the fucking mall? And had fucking KFC? Listen, Tucker, Haven and Clancy, tell your mom that you need to go to the bathroom, and run downtown to Pinati for hummus and shish-kebabs. The truth is, kids, is that, just like Americans, Israelis don’t eat KFC.

Before dinner, Clancy and I went down to the hotel fitness center and took a resistance class. The instructor had to give all the directions in both English and Hebrew.

Well, you have to work off that KFC before going to Burger King for dinner, right? Jesus of Nazareth.

Steve joined us for dinner and we went into the city. It was a little disconcerting when the driver pointed down a street and told us that was where a car bomb had exploded.

How fun! A car-bomb tour of Jerusalem! In a car! In Jerusalem! We were kind of kidding before when we speculated that Steve desperately wanted out, but now we’re not laughing so much. At all.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

We took an early bus ride to Tel Aviv where we met my brother, Justice, and his wife, Maria, who had just arrived the night before.

Yay, Justice! Boo, Maria! Tel, Aviv!

(Oooh. Justice looks fedorable! Now if he'd only get rid of the thing to his left.)

We also met our group for the first time. Somehow we got put on the European bus which we absolutely loved. Other than two other guys from Arizona, we were the only Americans. Everyone else was from Norway, Great Britain, Nigeria, Australia, Sweden and Ireland.

Ha. “Got put.” Come on. You know some prior-vacation-ruined-by-Whelchel American on the American bus recognized Lisa and was shrieked in horror, “Do not let that woman on this bus. She ruins everything. EVERYTHING!”

Our first stop was Herod’s Palace at Caesarea. Then we went to Mt. Carmel, the site where Elijah called down fire on the gods of Baal in a dual and God won. Next was overlooking the Valley of Jezreel/Armageddon. It was here that we began to get our first idea that we had really been blessed with an incredible tour guide.

You know, it’s one thing to hear people kind of just flippantly talk of Biblical events as being real. When this occurs, we can say to ourselves, Oh, that asshole is talking like he believes those events really happened, but, deep down, that asshole, of course, knows better.

It’s another thing entirely to hear someone seriously reference a place as being a site of one of those events. That’s just batshit crazy.

His name was Rami and he is a Messianic Jewish pastor. I can’t even begin to tell you all the incredible insights he brought to our tour. He made every stop come alive with fascinating history and excitement for the fulfillment of prophecy.

But did he provide an adequate answer to Lisa’s inquiry of "Why isn’t there a Chick-fil-A on Ben Yehuda Street?" Oh, and also an answer to our inquiry of "How can you be Jewish if you believe that Jesus was the messiah? Not that we care or anything, Rami, but, if you’re going to play the game, at least play it right, you know? We really hate a cheater."

We also went to Nazareth but it was so built up with homes that it was hard to imagine it as the little town where Jesus grew up. Our last stop was Mt. Precipice. This is supposedly the site where Jesus escaped stoning by slipping through the crowds but Rami said that he didn’t think this was the place where that actually happened. That is another thing we loved about Rami. He wasn’t afraid to tell us when tradition overlooked historical facts just so a church could be built there.

HISTORICAL FACTS?!?!?!?!? For the love of god, lady. What Rami is doing is what every religious noodnik, including yourself, has done for years upon years upon years: altering unprovable stories for his own personal financial benefit.

And we hope, for the sake of the entire European group, Lisa, you tipped Rami the poor guide well.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Coffee Talk Companion: "The Yenta Tour!"

Well, well.

Look who's begun writing again. And, we have to admit, she played this one VERY nicely:

I’ve decided to write every night when we return to the hotel after our days of touring. This holy pilgrimage for our family is too much of a blessing to chance forgetting even one moment. (Which I am apt to do if I don’t write it down.) Experiencing something memorable is always more fun when you can share it with someone. So…join me and my family as we take this journey together.

What this means, we find out, is that she has compiled all her daily writings into one big, dirty Coffee Talk bomb. So, after three months of silently waiting to pounce, we're being foiled by one super Chernobyl-sized post. Well. While lady is correct to assume that we don't have the time to cover the whole post in one Norman Fell swoop, we certainly do have time to comment on it piece-by-piece. And since the sabbatical is supposed to last until next May, this should give us plenty to cover in the Whelchel-less days ahead.

Unless, as we predicted as soon as it began, the sabbatical has come to a premature end.

In any case, apparently the Caubles are touring the Middle East, which now makes Osama bin Laden the second-most dangerous person in that area.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday morning we flew from Dallas to New York where we had a 5 hour layover. The girls played Charades, Tucker talked on his cell phone, and Steve and I caught up on conversations that we haven’t been able to have because he’s been busy getting ready for this convention.

Well, so much for Steve correcting his Coffee-Talk-killing wandering ways. It seems that to keep him in check, Lisa and family are following him wherever he goes. Even if he goes to a region full of militants and suicide bombers. God, Steve must want out RILLY badly.

We finally boarded the 747 bound for Israel only to stay on the tarmac for 2 hours before even beginning the 10-hour flight. We flew El Al Airlines. Tucker thought it was very funny that the highest level of elite airline travel was the “King David” class. I told him that the lowest level must be the “King Saul” class.

Oh, Lisa, that's the oldest joke ever told.

We arrived in Tel Aviv and fought to stay awake for the interesting drive to Jerusalem. We traveled through the Gaza Strip with the stone walls lining the highway to prevent sniper fire on the cars. Just a little bit freaky feeling.

Really? Just a little bit? Because if we traveled to a country full of snipers SHOOTING AT MY CAR WITH OUR KIDS IN IT, we would assume it would be a lot bit freaky feeling. (Wow, this is like getting back on a bicycle. It's like she never even left!)

We checked into the hotel and our room has the most incredible view of the Garden of Gethsemane and The Temple Mount.

We're totally wondering if this hotel's brochure advertises rooms with Garden views. (Sorry. We had to.)

We took a short nap to help with the jet lag adjustment and then ate dinner at the hotel buffet which we later decided was really all-you-can-eat-of-nothing-you-really-want!

Oh, Jesus, the jokes are flying left and right already! And since we could not find any listing for a Best Western in Jerusalem, we have to assume, thanks to Trip Advisor's ratings system, that this is where they stayed.

That evening we went to the hotel pool and spa. The coolest thing was the Turkish Bath. This place is kind of like a steam room but it has hot water dripping from the walls and on the floor and on a large heated marble slab in the middle. It also has fountains of cold water and bowls to splash yourself (and your sisters.)

"And your sisters"??? Is this some kind of strange Biblical reference? Was Lisa, in some orgiastic Holy Land fever, imagining herself frolicking around with Leah, Ruth, Sarah and Esther? Or were poor Clancy and Haven dragged to "this place," too? And, while were on the subject, who's watching Donut? No one, probably. Like usual.

This was really fun especially since I have read a million books set in Roman during the first century A.D. and they all talk so much about the bath houses.

Oh, Lisa, there are only hundreds of versions of the Bible. Stop being so hyperbolic.

This is what I imagined. Especially at the end when four men in Speedos walked in and started bathing each other with loofahs. Gross!

Four Israeli men in Speedos sponging each other off gross?!? Oh, god, this is going to be a long, long trip...


So, we just realized that in our haste to get started, we misunderstood the chronology of Lisa's posts-within-post (another very clever ploy). Alas, July 15, 2007 was totally overlooked. The good news is that clearly the less Coffee Talk the better. The better news is that we're not going back to correct our hasty ways. You'll just have to read about Lisa's pre-Israeli-invasion shenanigans yourself. Or better yet, don't.