The World According to Tiff Sniff

Meandering ponderings and wonderings on the state of things.

"Marie! It's Tim! Open up!"

So I realized last night that I had never posted one of my all-time favorite stories. Warning: it's a little bit risque.

In 2001, I spent the fall in London, studying with Pepperdine University School of Law. We were responsible for finding our own housing, which can be tricky, and very expensive. My friend Taleen and I had decided to look for a place together. So once we both got to London, we set out one morning with a classifieds paper and a phone. We found a few short-term, furnished flats in our price range, and called to set up appointments to look at them. The first one was just across Kensington Gardens from Pepperdine's building (where we were staying temporarily), in Bayswater. It was a quiet, friendly neighborhood. The flat itself was very nice, and large. It almost seemed too good to be true. The landlords had recently bought the building, and were renovating it one floor at a time. The basement flat was empty, and they really wanted to rent it until they were ready to work on it, several months out.

So Taleen and I took it. We never even went and looked at the other places. We each had our own bedroom, and they were quite large. We had a kitchen, pantry, storage closet, living room, bathroom, and extra room with no furniture but a mirror, that we used as a dressing room. The landlords bought new beds for us, but left the sofa and armchair from the previous tenant. All in all, a great setup.

The flat itself had two entrances: one through the kitchen, into a little (maybe 10 square feet) courtyard, and up a metal staircase to the street. We didn't have a key to get back in that way, though, so we used the other entrance, through the front door of the building and down the stairs inside.

Well, the very first night we were there, a man came to the kitchen door and knocked. We answered it, and he asked if Marie was there. We told him that no, we had just moved in, and we didn't know where the previous tenant had gone. No big deal.

Over the next week or so, Marie had several more callers: all men, and at all times of the day and night. It didn't take us long to figure out that Marie had been selling something.

Since we didn't use our kitchen door, the landlord put a padlock on the gate at the top of the steps. A man climbed over it to get to the door. So we bought some potted plants and put them on the top two steps. Someone else climbed over the gate and the planters.

The last visitor came by in the middle of the night, when we had already gone to bed. My bedroom was on the street side of the apartment, so the man was standing beside my window, knocking and yelling, "Marie! It's Tim! Open up!" I got up and went to confront him. Taleen heard the commotion and came to see what was going on. It took several minutes, but finally we convinced him that no, neither of us was Marie, no, there were no other girls there named Marie, no, there wasn't a time he could come back later and see her, and no, we didn't know where she had gone. We laughed, went back to bed, and didn't think too much more about it. After that, the construction workers stored their supplies and tools in our little courtyard, and we had no more visitors.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. I was in our living room doing homework. Now, the only light in the room was mounted on the wall, and had no lamp shade over it. (Since we really only were in there to read our homework, it didn't bother us that it was as ugly as it was.) After a while, the glare on the pages was hurting my eyes, so I decided to move down to the floor to change the angle of the light. The floor was not carpeted, so I picked up one of the sofa cushions to sit on.

Under the cushion was a whip.

A black leather, braided whip, about 3 feet long.


I started laughing and yelled for Taleen. She laughed and picked up the other cushion, under which was a business card for a "massage therapist" named Marie. We just about died.

We took a picture of us with the whip (holding it very gingerly, of course) and gave it to two of the guys on our trip, who were way too eager to have it, if you ask me. Taleen made the comment that everything in our flat that had seemed odd before now just seemed kinky: the bare-bulb lamp, the closet with a slide-latch, the bathroom that locked from the outside.

We found out later, from one of our neighbors in the building, that the previous tenant (we think her real name was Sofia) received gentlemen callers at all hours, and when the new landlords bought the building, she was asked to move out. So thank you, Marie, for getting yourself kicked out so we could have your awesome apartment!

Marie became a part of our vernacular, and when we got back to LA, Taleen had a Marie party, where we all dressed outrageously, and some of her theater friends brought over some props to decorate. I don't know what ever happened to the whip. I don't want to know.

Next time I'll tell you about the day Janus and his associates knocked Taleen's ceiling in.

A recommendation

Maybe Harding can invite Pat Robertson next.


What an amazing night. Donald Miller spoke at my home congregation here in Nashville. I won't deconstruct or recreate (ha ha) what he said. He spoke on a topic that is apparently a chapter in his second book, "Searching for God Knows What": Romeo, Juliet, and Jesus. It was a thought-provoking, funny, and enlightening presentation, complete with music and video clips. Would you expect anything else from a true postmodern?

He was a better speaker than I had been led to believe, and looked nothing like I had visualized. He actually looks like someone I would know, rather than an intellectual liberal published author. Whatever that means.

Anyway, if you get a chance to hear him, go. I highly recommend "Blue Like Jazz", although it is trendy. I haven't read his other books yet, but they're on my list.

Other highlights of the night included dinner with friends and seeing Stacy, a friend from high school, and George, a friend from Pepperdine, neither of whom I had seen in years, and talking for a long time to my friend Austin, from youth group.

I just realized I haven't explained what is a mystery. Donald touched tonight on a thought I have had many times over the last couple of years, that by breaking our faith down into parts or steps or pieces of information, we lose our sense of mystery. Instead of being an indescribable being of awesome power, God becomes a genie - someone who does what we want, if we ask Him in the right way. I think we lose an incredible part of who He is when we do that, and I think it's just plain disrespectful. We, as humans, will never have the intellect or perspective to understand or explain God. Therefore He will always be mystery. You can rail against that or revel in it. I have made my choice, and have found joy there. I can't explain it; it's a mystery, and if that line combined with the earlier reference makes anyone else think of "Shakespeare in Love", please tell me, so I won't feel like such a dweeb. Thank you.


Okay, having thought about it some more, here is why I think the Ann Coulter thing bothers me:

Many speakers are denied a place on Harding's stage because of things they have said publicly. Mike Cope and Jeff Walling are the ones being thrown about on blogs, but the list would (theoretically) include Max Lucado, Rubel Shelley, and Tim Woodroof, for the same reasons: they preach a liberal and progressive gospel that rubs certain people the wrong way.

Therefore, Harding implicitly, if not intentionally, supports the message of anyone who is invited to speak. I don't really think Ann Coulter will tell the Harding kids to rape the earth, hate anyone different from themselves, and be violent toward other religious and ethnic groups, but these are things she has said very publicly in the past. Things Harding's administration doesn't have a problem with, apparently. Things that go against every fiber of my being, and directly contrast what my Bible says.

That's why it bothers me. I think I'm closer to composing that letter to Dr. Burks et al.

Can I change my degree to be from another school?

Ann Coulter has been invited to speak, as a Distinguished Lecturer, at my alma mater, Harding University.

Before I get into this, I feel the need to state, unequivocally, that I had a wonderful and building time at Harding, and that I do not regret my decision to attend the school one iota. But the fact is that the school has changed pretty drastically in the five years since I left. Or maybe, more accurately, it has moved farther down the path it was on when I was there, to a place that makes me uncomfortable. And by "the school", I speak specifically of the administration and influential donors and alums, not the faculty or staff or students. So.

After reading these posts:
Mike Cope
Greg Kendall-Ball
James Wiser (check this one out especially for a great list of Coulter quotes, complete with citations.)

I feel the need to post something about this. Right now, I'm mostly just too mad, disappointed, and frustrated to really discuss the issue without being offensive, so I'll try to sum up my thoughts in bullet-points:

*The fact that Harding has openly and willingly embraced one political ideology over another severely undermines its effectiveness as an institution of higher learning. After all, a liberal arts college is supposed to expand your world view, introduce you to new concepts and societies, and help you learn the skills you need to process through new experiences. It is not to be an official spokespiece for one way of thinking. That is what our political parties are for.

*I'm not opposed to Coulter's appearance as a volatile speaker, or as one who holds one particular view over another. What breaks my heart is that it feels like a gauntlet is being thrown down. Like Harding's administration is openly saying, "This is who we are going to be now, and we just want to clear up any doubts in the minds of you who might think we'd allow a balanced perspective." It would bother me just as much if they invited someone as vitriolic from the left-wing. The point is, that by choosing her over the many, many other right-wing speakers who are not as hateful, they are leaving no doubt as to what they think about the "right" way to think. They would hate to know how many "liberals" have walked that campus.

*It also feels like a play for attention.

*Although I was a top student, a member of the history and political science honor societies, president of the pre-law club, and even an American Studies Scholar (the institution within the school that puts this series on), I have absolutely no influence with the administration. Because I don't make enough money to donate millions every year.

*Even if I did have the money to threaten to send it elsewhere, I wouldn't feel entirely comfortable doing that because there are so many amazing professors (especially in my old department) who work hard in their classes to encourage their students to think. Not to just accept the status quo, but to look at why things are the way they are, and evaluate whether they should stay the same or not. People like Mark Elrod, Larry Long, Kevin and Lori Klein, Jan Fortner, and Pat Garner taught me the skills I need to decide for myself. Since money seems to be the only influence Harding respects, I don't know how I would express disappointment to the administration without at the same time affecting the faculty I love so dearly. (This is all assuming I would have the means to donate $10 million or so a year.) (Or is it $20 million if you're a woman?)

There is a lot more running around in my head, but I'm still processing through it all. There has to be a way to get the administration's attention without resorting to name-calling or condemnation. Well, actually, I don't know. They do seem to like Ann Coulter and her tactics....

Open Letter to the Ferris Wheel Operator at the Williamson County Fair

Dear James,

I have enjoyed our playful banter this week. You are moderately attractive, especially in light of your co-workers, who are almost without exception extremely overweight and old. Your generosity is evident by the free rides of the Ferris Wheel you have given me, my family, and my friends. You seem, too, to have some intelligence, which is why I think you can appreciate what I have to tell you.

I understand that your life this time of year is quite nomadic. I bet you meet a lot of cute local girls at every locale. You are quite good at quickly establishing rapport with people, probably because of the nature of your work.

So tonight, when you asked me for my phone number, part of me was quite flattered, as is true any time I'm asked for my number. However, besides the fact that I have a flat-out ban against dating carnies (which, honestly, I didn't realize until tonight), I didn't get the impression that you were interested in me as a person. Perhaps it was just knowing that as of Sunday, you are on to the next small Southern fair. But I think it was mostly because of the airbrushed "Leighann 'n' James" trucker hat you wear constantly. And more than that, the fact that your girlfriend, with matching "James 'n' Leighann" trucker hat, works the water-gun game next to our Icee trailer.

So understand that it wasn't you, per se, that I wasn't attracted to, but your obvious desire to score with a local girl before leaving. Next time, I suggest you hit on one of the ubiquitous teenagers; your friend on the roller blades seemed to meet quite a few of them this week.

Good luck in your chosen career; I hope the fair circuit is good to you and yours. Until next year,

A Sad Day for us All

I regret to inform you that my fish, Jaws, has passed onto that great aquarium in the sky. I know it's hard, but I hope you can all find a way to get through your day. I offer the following ode in his memory:

Dun dun, dun dun, dun dun, dun dun.

A fish of blue hue
Feared to eat in front of me,
So I had to hide.

Always paranoid,
He could not just ignore me
And watched me nonstop.

I know he liked to play
Lots of bubbles at the end
Of every day.

But not when I'm there.
Play and action never shown
His loving owner.

Alas, his fear came true
All alone he left this world
Sometime yesterday.

Flush-ed now is he,
Blue flash of worried fish brain
Fears his food no more.


To help you with your grief, I highly recommend an evening at the Williamson County Fair. It's running through Saturday at the Ag Expo Center off of 65, and it's been a lot of fun. It's very clean and family-friendly, and there is a ton of stuff to do - rides, games, shows, exhibits, livestock, and, of course, fair food. When was the last time you had a funnel cake? You know you want one. (Mmmm, funnel cake.)

It's $3 to park, $5 to get in, and I promise you'll have a blast. Just be sure to stop by the Icee trailer and say hello!

The Corpse in the Backyard

I think I have a title for my first mystery novel.

Seriously, though, big news here in Nashville - Perry March has been arrested in Mexico, is being deported to Los Angeles, and will be brought back to Nashville to face charges of second-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, here's a brief summary (the link above has a little more detail, but not much): In 1996, a local artist named Janet March disappeared from her home on Tyne Blvd. Her husband, Perry, claimed he didn't know where she was. He said he thought she had simply left him and their two children, due to a recent fight. A few days later, her car was found parked at the end of Tyne Blvd., several miles from their home.

Not long after that, Perry picked up and moved to Mexico with his kids. No body was ever found. For the last few years, Perry has been locked in court battles with Janet's parents over custody of the children (the grandparents went so far as to kidnap the kids in Mexico and bring them back here, but they were eventually returned to their father), Janet's assets, and a wrongful death suit that is still in appeals.

In 1997, the winning YASNI was inspired by the case. This is a story that has all the elements of a really good murder novel - a missing body, feuding relatives, even a lawyer as a defendant. It will be interesting to see the evidence when it is presented; let's hope it will be an open court, so the news channels can keep us up to date.

Specifically, I want to know what piece of evidence has come to light after all these years to make the case solid enough to bring charges. And what charge Perry was deported under (note, he wasn't extradited to face charges) - what did he do to piss off Mexico? The AG's office must have a pretty good theory about what happened to the body. Did he do something creative and heinous with it? Were there other people involved in her disappearance? It should be a fascinating trial. That is, if he doesn't enter a plea of some sort. (To Tory Johnson - don't plead him! If you've got enough evidence, put the jerk away. We lawyers have enough of a bad reputation.)

And the corpse in the backyard? My dad is convinced he knows where Janet March's body is. You see, if you drive down Tyne Blvd. from where the Marches lived to the church where her car was found, you pass two wooded areas. One, in fact, has houses behind the trees; you just can't see them from the road. The other is a probably 10-acre wooded lot. It is what is left of the farm that was developed into my parents' neighborhood. The lot actually belongs to an adjoining house, but has never been cleared or developed for anything. As kids, my brother and sister and I had a great place to play. My dad thinks the body is probably buried in there somewhere. It's the only stretch along that road where something like a body could be hidden, and assuming that the murderer killed her at the house, dumped the body and then the car, it does make a certain amount of sense that that person would have taken the most direct route straight down Tyne.

Surely, if there were any real probability, the police would have searched the area. So far as I know, they never have. So they must have another idea of what happened to the body. Either way, as much as the public (including me) wants its morbid curiosity satisfied, it is still possible to convict a person of murder without an actual body, if the evidence is strong enough.

I did sit through most of the press conference a little while ago. It was fun to watch the journalists trying to pry information out of the AG, FBI agent and police chief. Their response to most of the questions was along the lines of, "That's evidence, and we can't comment on the evidence." Then the next journalist would try to think of an even trickier way to ask about evidence. A battle of wits like you've never imagined. Eventually, everyone realized that as much as was going to be said, had been.

Welcome home, Perry. We've been waiting for this.

Why I hated P.E. class

I had lunch Monday with MalibuLibrarian and his wife, old friends from college whom I hadn't seen in about two and a half years. It was great to catch up, even though we didn't have much time together. They now both work at Pepperdine, and I'm trying to figure out when I can go out there for a good long visit. The fact that they live in Malibu has nothing to do with it, really. (And they have nothing to do with P.E. - keep reading)


If you're going to be in or around Nashville next Saturday, August 13, and are looking for a fun, cheap outing, have I got a show for you! Just in time for all the back-to-school bustle, we are throwing a dodgeball tournament! The First Annual Mission:Dodgeball Tournament will start at 6:00 p.m., and spectator tickets are only $3. (If you want to play in the tournament, send me an email ASAP!) The money is being raised to fund a missions team going to England for a week in October. We'll have prizes for best costume, and some fierce competition for the trophy. And, of course, no church event would be complete without a commemorative t-shirt.

The tournament will be held at the McIver Center on McIver street in south Nashville. It will probably last 2-3 hours, depending on the final number of teams. If you're around, come check it out.

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