Monday, July 07, 2008

 

That '80s Show

I recall watching the TV show Happy Days and being somewhat turned off by "decade-nostalgia" even while intuiting that my time would come. And indeed it did. To paraphrase Bobby Knight, if nostalgia is unavoidable you may as well relax and enjoy it.

the effervescent Belinda Carlisle
So this post is inspired by fellow '80s afficiando Alisyn C. . This paragraph from her greenroom blog especially resonates:
Ahh…my favorite decade! Remember the horrible haircuts (I had one resembling Joan Jett’s), the stone-washed jeans, the bad tv? For all the ills of the decade, I maintain it had the best music. Here’s what would have been on my IPOD (had that been invented back then): Squeeze, the English Beat, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Go-Gos!

Spring Break in Fl...I'm at far right.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

 

I’m carrying it in my pocket because I want His words close to me. It gives me a feeling of comfort and relish to have them there. I’m speaking of the wonderful “Word Among Us” which has been a godsend, literally. I sometimes I think I rely too much on this publication, as if I’m leaning on it instead of God, but why shouldn’t it be God who sent it to me? I greedily consume the daily readings, usually the first reading and the Psalm is beautiful both in the ornate way on the page and in the substance. The reading from Ezekiah was wonderful. Who knew Ezekiah was so good? What else is so good that I’m missing? http://www.usccb.org/nab/081806.shtml

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

 

Lent, like March, began with a lion – the Old Testament words of Jeff Culbreath who posted letters from pontiffs who took seriously their responsibility to their flock. The words singe with alacrity, a rousing from the tyranny of inertia and “the way things are” and too easeful moving between the sacred and the secular.

My malaise seems self-inflicted. I realized today at church, while praying the psalms, how much I needed to pray the psalms. And why haven’t I? Why haven’t I drunk from the rich font of past papal encyclicals, of wise saints and the Church Fathers? How can I have missed Psalm 71 with its infant baptism reverberations:

Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother's womb.
My praise is continually of you.
I give God the mealy portion of a daily “get-it-over-with” Mass and little else. Given this time, I could at least use it prayerfully and by reading great books instead of blogging. Imagine the spiritual classics, not the least of which the bible, I could read. How hard it really is to say I am open to God! And yet in the fire of prayer it all seems irrelevant, myself that is, my condition, my self-criticism, my judgment. In the fire of real prayer perspective and priorities emerge only to immediately dissipate afterwards, like mirages in the desert. There is really only realness, and Realness means being willing to endure pain and/or discomfort, whether psychically or physically, and not being afraid of intimacy, illness, another’s egotism, another’s apostasy, another’s lack of prayerfulness, all these things I leave as burdens on Christ.

While with fasting I’m allergic to feelings of holiness, or at least suspicious of it as feeling good about myself because of my actions, one has little recourse but to feel good about oneself because it is only then you can, in a sense, get over yourself. By dwelling on my inadequacies I am distracted from God.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

 

Fictional Friday

Let no foreigner who has attached himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people’. Let no eunuch say, ‘And I, I am a dried-up tree’. (Is 53:2-4)
The trees - the trees! - wagged their skeltal winter fingers at us but we huddled against them and each other for warmth, the warmth of companionship and bonhomie against the frigid wind. Responsibility was a small herb in the kitchen garden then, not the huge shade tree it is now, now that we are battling demons both real and imagined.

We dabbled at irresponsibility beside the Village Green while our elders went about their bustle, their hustle, and you and I wanted to figure it all out beforehand, to walk into it prepared, with all of our equipment on, while never realizing for a moment that to wait to be prepared would be to wait forever.

The words of Isaiah sang to us, the scripture cribbed itself in our blood for we were foreigners in a foreign land and this was the first crack of sunlight. Youth we extended as far as we could, like gamblers who ran till the money ran out. We never bought into the system because the system was flawed. How could we feel responsibility when the system was flawed? It never occurred to us that Someone bought into a flawed system. He didn’t wash His hands.

We tramped from Maine to California looking for authenticity while scrupulously taking care not to infect it with our lack thereof. Wherever we found it we ran from it quickly less we corrupt it, but we saved the sliver we caught and had it laminated at the nearest Kinkos and carried it with us like a totem. We planned on collecting authenticities till we had a "set" although how do you collect a set that was limitless?

~

I once haunted the rail cars outside Kansas City looking for hobos since I'd read that such folks once existed and I wanted to see the last American hobo if I could. And I came across an Irish troubador named Makem and I asked for some sort of proof, some sort of Hobo's Union card, and I wasn't sure if he was real Irish. What if his brogue was affected and I didn't know it? How would I know it?

But he sang and talked, and talked and sang, and carried on deep into the night and a convergence of things made me think him real. There were echoes of the hard-living actor Peter O'Toole in his earthy blend of honesty and poetry. It didn't hurt that he was older than the hills since there is something authentic in someone so old, so close to the exit door.

He sang simple songs because he said God was simple and people were complex and he'd rather be close to God than people. I pondered that for a moment, pondered if I much liked simplicity. I thought if I'd had my druthers I'd druther God be complicated. But Makem said that once you go simple, you don't go back. I eventually agreed only because complicated wasn't much working...

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Friday, December 09, 2005

 

Went out to the old family history website to see if there was anything I could add and to look at the ancient pictures.

My dad looks like such a cherubic little kid in the old photo with him and his mom & dad. There’s surely something unnatural in a son seeing his father as an eight-year old. Ten thousand years of recorded human history and it’s been only the past couple hundred when it would even be possible to see what your parents looked like before you were born. We live in an amazing age.

He looks exactly as I would’ve wished he look. Smiling but shy, shown by the downward cast of the head. There’s nothing cocky or jaunty in his attitude but he's no shrinking violet either, his shoulder blades back and chest confidently stuck out. The blonde hair is neatly combed, the sign of a caring mother? It seems like it must’ve been rare to have his picture taken alone with his parents as they had six children.

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I'm always surprised at being surprised. Afterwards I ask myself how to have not been surprised, as if surprise was something you can anticipate.

But there it was. It was one of those see how much my ol' heart can take evenings and it reverbs still.

First I was driving home from work like any other night, smoking a cigar while listening to the cheerful Irish chunes. A little bit o' heaven.

And then I notice an odor, like someone's burning leaves. I open the window a little wider, sniffing. Next thing I know my eyes are burning and the darkened car is filled with smoke. Dang nab, the car's afire! She could blow! Scottie what should I do? How long can I ride 'er?

And yet why isn't there any smoke coming out the hood? It appeared to be coming from the steering wheel column.

I opened the window wider but the smoke became heavier so I pulled over and took the keys out of the ignition. I try several times to call the local Ford dealer, to see what they think it might be (low on steering wheel fluid cause this?). Meanwhile the cab of the truck continues to huff and puff.

They tell me to bring her in and so I reluctantly re-enter. By this time it's not too bad. A few minutes and I'm at the dealership getting out of the truck when I notice...a pile of ash...a nearly burnt-up CD...

Yes a cigar ember hit some paper and the rest was history.

*

After that adrenalin rush I get home, check my email and it's from the editor of a well known Christian magazine wanting me to write something for them. I rub my eyes in disbelief. Someone I'd seen on TV had emailed me. Someone I'd seen on TV, an editor from the isle of Manhattan, had taken notice of my blog.

The world is an awfully strange place sometimes, capable of as it is of surprises good and bad.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

 



Carol’d in the catacombs
of a university reading Greek
myths benumbed by
"Incidit in Scyllam, cupicns vitare Charybdim"
meaning little than one might get credit
for picking Scylla over Charbydis...

Innocent as a boy-scout botantist
studying the Venus fly trap
incurably incurious as to why
it would be called “Venus"
till soon the subtly-set trap
held wide as the Sargasso Sea
would snap shut on this unsuspecting shuttlecock.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

 

AO gave me a handout on faith versus works, a quick study he did for his Protestant bible study. I treated it as the radioactive material it was. I’m not going there. But he gave it to me in good faith, pun intended, as he was seriously wanting to reconcile Paul & James. It sounded much like the Luthern-Catholic document on justification – basically that works come out of an authentic faith. But I do see talking religion with AO & Julie is a danger. “Win an argument lose a soul" said Bishop Sheen, but I've never not tried to win an argument and I’m no better at throwing arguments than Homer Simpson is at resisting a Krispy Kreme.

***

I must’ve hit the wrong combination of keys ‘cuz that awful Office Assistant has visited my Word document. He (she?) is in the form of a paper clip and darned if I’m not having a hard time right-clicking him to oblivion. Those hang-dog eyes. Maybe I’ll keep him around like a pet while I’m writing.

Uh-oh, the bastard is starting to wear out his welcome. He just got this distracting yellow light bulb over his head. I click it and it says that "Word can finish words for you". Why doesn't he mind his own bidness? Maybe I like typing! Go back to sleep doggie, I mean clippie.

****

Been reading a pleasant mix of books. “Sin Killer” by Larry McMurtry, Chesterton’s biography of Francis, 1916: A Novel of Irish Rebellion and “Separated at Birth”, concerning the two Koreas. Want to get back to the Jeff Davis bio and finish that bad boy. I want to read Dubay’s book on prayer even though I suspect books on prayer are like books on sex – if you have to read about it you ain’t doing it right. Both resist formulas.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

 

I’m never quite sure whether it’s better to ignore the obvious or mention it in hopes of exorcising it: Having seasonal affective disorder means never having to say you’re sorry about complaining about the weather. Or should I say that hating the winter means always assuming you have seasonal affective disorder. The obvious in this case is that it’s time to short autumn. I’m frankly bearish on the fall. I’m long on the winter. Somebody call my broker.

So what’s my beef? That this string of Thanksgiving-Christmas is the longest and least pleasant stretch of the year? True, but by definition there has to be a long, unpleasant stretch of the year, at least relative to the rest of the year. If the year is a bell curve you’re always going to have outliers of suckiness, so be it. The rest of the year wouldn’t look so good but for the unpleasant stretch of the year. "Wake me when it's February" certainly sounds unduly pessimistic.

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I walk into the scent of dying books
- that’s what makes old libraries smell so good -
and the same is what makes Christians
smell good so I wonder:
Am I dying enough?

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Friday, November 04, 2005

 

Dublin Irishfest

Musicians like Druid priests
hold forth o'er secular altars
bound for Lebor Gabala Erren
the kings of the Tuatha de Danann
sail to the macotic marshes on the sea
in the melt of summer the sand statues
stand in shimmer-waves
depicting Picts and one-maned myths-
for between bliss and blister
lay a syllable.

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Went on the ceremonial “last bike ride” this week, which I assume is not so different than the condemned man’s last meal. I flirted for an hour with a sunny sky and a new housing tract, which led to the fruit of infant asphalt and a nubile street, nary a house, still in that sublime state of traffic-less reverie. I road up and down it many times, watching the sky turn into a nativity scene – all pink and blue – and I rode it sniffing the air and accusing it of graceless chill even as it wore a 65 degree price tag. Some are never satisfied, even when the temp is twelve degrees above normal. I rode the path, gorging on the red farm in the distance, the soil tilled as if serving as a frame, and I wondered why the summer feels like a woman who leaves me every year.

I came back and was surprised by company. I suppose the worst time for company is after a long reverie-inducing bike ride. I came back tired and hungry and in the unsocialable mood of the daydreamer. It sometimes seems the only time we get company is when I don’t want it. It seems any sort of escapism is punished early and often. Be it escapism found while reading novels or bike rides in the country or in alcohol, you can bet there’ll be a test at the end. The moral might be make sure you escape from your escapism before you arrive back in the real world.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

 

I feel the need. The need for a beer.

October always feels like the Niagra river, beautiful and rustic, rushing and hushing while hurling you headlong towards...disaster. But I eggs-asperate. I'm just a bit tahred. (that's the way they say 'tired' down south). Had Bingo Thursday eve, dinner out with AO & J on Friday, my niece, nephew, sister & 'rents on the weekend, and then last night was Trick and/or Treat in which our goal was to not get any chitlins bitten by our barking shepherd dog. Then last night, to placate my wife, was a gouge of television which, as we know, is the least nourishing part of anyone's diet. I'm in reading-beer deficit: I can't recall the last time I read a beer label.

I'd ruther some 'oetry. It's amazing how a few words - Orkney, highlands, sea - can provoke a reaction similar to the actual scenes signified:

The writer of the highlands
left a gaping valley
ascending distant mountains
playing discalced pipes.

Gone from the Orkney Islands
the lass from Skara Brae
appealed she to our better nature
as well as to our worst.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

 

It’s always foolish to deny the obvious and the obvious is this: it’s dark when I come home from work. That’s just the plain fact of it. Nature has this sort of clock-like regularity to her. I just noticed. She’s nothing if not strict.

I’ve decided I’m going to forego the annual “I dislike winter” parade. I think it’s gotten old. I should go back in this journal and look at the last five late Octobers and I believe only the dates have changed. Whole lot of whining. Yes it’s getting darker and colder and I have very little vacation time to make up for it. Whose fault is that? Why do I use up my vacation time when it is warm and sunny? Oh, yeah, probably because it’s warm and sunny.

The mornings are dark now, just like when I rode a bus as a kid. I’d wait on the corner and watch my breath in the cool morning air and then board a big yellow bus. One time I heard the song “Seven-oh-seven o’clock!” and it was pretty near that time. I thought it amazingly ironic.

I can’t believe how impossible it is to slow down September and October. A big part of it was the consecutive Boston/Toronto trips. In fact that’s probably all of it. But the Quarterhorse Congress is in town this week and it just melts my memory, it sounds the nostalgic chimes, those dusty years spent wearing cowboy boots and listening to Randy Travis music. Time slowed then or likely I slowed then. I’d like to go and see a barrel race or two.

I’m mindful of Jeff Culbreath’s grand experiment out there in the dusty plains of California. I’ve always been attracted to the movements to simplify, and to get closer to the land. We miss much in enclosing ourselves in our homes, which is part of the reason I dislike winter. I read somewhere that the average hunter/gather worked 15 hours a week, and that has a kind of appeal to it too. But I suspect Jeff is working much longer. I’ve no doubt that the hunter/gatherers were as happy as we are, but also no doubt that we would not be as happy as they were if we lived like them, since you can’t undo the knowledge of the comforts of modern life.

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There ain't a blogger who hain't imagined hisself a writer. But when I read Karen Hall say she has to constantly remind herself why she became a writer, well, that helps cure the itch.

And the blog is a wonderful outlet, though too much of my writing has the Editor-in-Chief too much in charge. The blog is too public to go wild but too private not to want to sneak in something daring.

Writing for real works in only a couple distinct ways. One way is if you get off on obscure bits of meaningless history. If you have sufficient curiosity to care what King Edward VII ate for breakfast, then you might be the writer of history. Most history books I see out now weigh twenty pounds and major in minutiae.

The second way to write is to experience life widely, and to write about it in the form of a novel or travelogue. A novel must have a strong sense of place and this is acquired either naturally (i.e. Walker Percy, born in the gothic south) or unnaturally (Tom Wolfe, who researches his novels with a historian’s carefulness). Being born in Ohio lends itself primarily to comedic writing.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

 

It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks. Actually it was neither but that sounds so literary it makes my goosebumps have goosebumps. Been cataloging my library on librarything.com and I don’t think my blood pressure can take it. That’s what I attribute its recent rise to. Has to, since it’s the only obsession I’ve lately introduced. Or it could be that I’ve been eating too much fried food without enough exercise. Exercise tends to wane with the end of summer since neither man nor beast exercises in the dark.

And so goes another week o’er the dam. And with it one of those Predictable Crisises in the Christian life. Gail Sheehy should write a book. Salvation is precarious and if it’s by God’s doing only it feels arbitrary and unfair, but the unpleasant otherwise is that if it partially depends on man then to trust any man (including oneself) is utter foolishness.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

 

Well, we're gaining towards mid-October already. September felt a bit flabby. Too much flab-time sat on my hands and paradoxically I didn’t use it well, didn’t read Yeats or Dickens or Scripture. When time is taut, free time must be of depth in order to survive. When I’m truly busy I have greater need of beauty.

The sun figures in too much. I feel like I have to get every last ray, ride that bike while there’s still riding time left. The summer is wonderful but eventually she begins piping the tune, which, to a certain extent she does due to that seasonal affective disorder thang. One tends to rearrange the schedule for mental health purposes, even when one suspects it's merely a superstition.

The week was supremely busy. Tuesday was a travel day from Canada, an adrenalin-ride of nearly missed connections. Wednesday was work-heavy, but got a lot done. Thursday was Carol’s goodbye party, and she seemed to much appreciate that I was there (and took notes on who wasn’t) so it was good I was there, particularly since she associates me with Catholicism. Rushed off from there to bingo, which I really wasn't in the mood for. The hours they did drag, which was perhaps proof that I’d gotten too used to vacational self-indulgence. I was grateful for the crucifix in the bingo hall, it was a warming sign.

Feel a deep need to resuscitate in the dust motes of a good volume of fiction. But feel the same sort of scatterminded, restlessness that most resists what is most required. Sat down to read, or rather prepared for sitting down for reading by doing a thousand little chores, including, if you can believe it, watering the plants. I finally sit down and gape at the libraries in the “At Home With Books” picture book. Ahh…pictures…. (say like “Ahhh…donuts” in Homer Simpson’s voice).

My desire for order is so pronounced that it greatly relieves me that I relieved this desk of all those pesky receipts and Visa statements, which stand like mute reminders to update Quicken but which I fail to do repeatedly, just as I consistently fail to acquire sufficient beer or gas or groceries. I’m so tired of nearly running out of things, including money. (Must go to ATM.) I swear I can’t keep Quicken updated and am wondering if it’s even worth it.

Worked bingo with new bingo workers and I asked the sort of questions that I shouldn’t have. Of the thin, attractive tall brunette I asked: “Are you 6-foot?” (she was 5-10). I also asked her if she played basketball. She played volleyball she said. She was kind to me, in the sort of polite way one is kind to the mentally disabled.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

 

Poverty issues tie me up in complexities upon complexities and I started to write a post for Video Meliora until I realized that I don't have the foggiest notion what I was talking about. Rather than let it go completely to waste, I figured I'd fire it out on this blog.

Post-Katrina, there has been a lot about poverty in the media. Part of the complexity of poverty is that it is not merely material but, as a social worker in the Dispatch said, also psychological. Hopelessness plays a role.

Can we allow people to fail? For individual Christians (rather than the government) the answer would seem to be "no", at least if we see a spiritual parallel and ask ourselves if we would want Got to allow anyone to fail, that is to go to hell. We would want Him to go to heroic measures to insure success, we would want him to reach out to us while we were still sinners and we have seen in the example of the Incarnation and subsequent Crucifixion. One touches on the issue of free will of course, although it's always been odd for me to understand how someone, in true freedom, would choose their own destruction.

But going back to material poverty, there is St. Paul's line about "those who do not work, shall not eat". Which suggests that Paul thinks some should be allowed to fail. But then you get into having to judge who is not willing to work and who is, and to what extent they are culpable for that decision given, say, psychological problems. And that seldom seems cut and dried.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

 

Waiter, There’s Brine in My Nostrils!

What is this need for earthy stories that smell of sea and air? What of this craving for George Mackay Brown's tales and his simple childlike odes of sea and storm and soil that I should long to breath through these gills? All my life I’ve been arrested by the sea, by crustacians and sea nympths, by any of the sea creatures that call landlubbers to something more. Living in the land of the land-locked perhaps it’s natural to find the sea exotic, but still there is something plaintive in the calling of seals and of coastal Ireland in her far cliffs such that it’s possible the stray dangle of an obscure strand of DNA resolves it -- Somehow, somewhere down the ancestral line the sea got imbedded into my soul though no scientist has found evidence such. Somewhere, somehow the scent of salt-water and the welter of waves issued into me. I was surrounded by fishermen as a youth and I was oblivious, like the Baptized who is surrounded by God but is unawares.

~~

Oh the beauty of the fall! The script, in cursive, above the neighbor’s door details their address and is both wonderfully anachronistic and artistically offputting. A spectral porch light beckons, or beacons, and makes their backyard look like an empty high school football field and I feel the dew, wet and cold against my soles, already present and accounted for just after midnight. And oh do I ache for the scent of brine in my nostrils and to hear the sea roar!

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I read the blogs of the Bushhaters occasionally and I feel so alienated from the culture, so alienated even from Newsweek with its fat ladle of boring articles. I was tempted to write down the titles & summaries of all thirty-plus articles just to say: Is it just me? The post-Katrina mortem irritates me, mostly because expecting for government to act other than bloatful and wasteful seems silly, though I understand the need for the thirty lashes from Newsweek's wet noodle so that it might improve for the next 'cane. That is an excellent service of the media, but I just don't want to read it. Should I?

Another article that ought draw my interest, the Roberts nomination, I'm not at all interesed in. I can tell you what happened at the hearings. Blowhard senators blew, hard, and now they’ll vote him in and the whole thing seems like a colossal waste of time. Roberts himself seems like a good person and that’s all we can ask for. Hopefully he’ll stand up to the tsunami winds of the gas-baggers of the D.C. dinner party set. Never underestimate the gravitational pull of peer pressure. That’s the sort of questions the senators should ask him. "Will you, Judge, be able to withstand dinner invitiations from Ben Bradley and Rupert Murdoch? Will you be able to attend without letting it go to your head or wanting to fit in with the eastern elites? Oh, that’s right, you’re already an eastern elite."

But I looked at that Newsweek and I kept thinking that I should be getting something out of this. I should be engaged, this is our culture, this is our time, our age, this is an exciting age to live in...isn't it? Then why does it taste so tasteless and seem so unnourishing?

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Friday, September 16, 2005

 

It seems I’m always looking for that breakthrough in terms of writing, expression, fiction. But shouldn’t I look for breakthroughs in terms of giving, of caring, of charity? Steven Riddle says he has loggorhea, which I think means he likes to write, and I find great satisfaction in poetry and short stories. They are remarkably elusive. Maybe a couple a week. I marvel at Bill Luse’s ability to take a narrative and keep it going and going, consistently and in the same voice, not suddenly launching from here to there such that you can tell his mood by the chapter. It’s tighter and more seamless than I seem to have the capacity for. Reading it gave me to understand that novel writing just isn’t my thang. I don’t read many and even writing a short story within three pages I’m looking for a joke to tell. Dave Barry is my hero.

Bill must have a good attention span. I think to be a good novelist you have to like novels, sort of like to be a good lover you have to love women. Too often I’ve not had the patience with novels, wishing they’d get to a point, and that is a reflection of a short attention spanning. Blogging is my medium though it doesn’t pay well.

Short stories and poems get catapulted straight from the heart, they bring up the good dark, arterial blood and it’s a joy to see that burgundy on the page. They tend to wear well. Preachy posts don’t, because my lack of sanctity makes them seem embarrassing and neither do the nature posts because again nature is a fickle mistress. But when you get the arterial blood there you get something that has some juice, that has some play, because it strikes deep and there is an element of self-discovery within. I learn by writing, never more so than in what I call fiction. Writing a good non-fiction-disguised-as-fiction piece has a sexual release aspect to it that lasts about a day or two.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

 

Oh but it seemed like yesterday when I was vying for first fat male jogger to run shirtless through Goodale Park! Where did the time go? Now the fall pawns itself upon us, and everyone praises it, their favorite time of year they say, but it feels of me of endings, not beginnings, and it feels of nostalgia, not hope.

Live in the moment! adulthood says, and yet how to live in the moment without being careless and foolish, and yet the reminders emblazon themselves across the sky--nature is against us, the air has the smell of apocalyptic about it, of 9/11 and now this, and we knew L.A. or Orleans would go, we just didn't know which first, and now the city of the dead is the city of the dead and dying and the birds fly formations as if a Siege was coming and I shower, and it's hot, and the soap smells good and I wonder how to reconcile that while at the same time thousands on the Gulf breathe stench and filth and there is no water?

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Friday, August 26, 2005

 

Lesser men than me would quake in the waning days of a vacation but I fear not. Although admittedly I’m saying this Guinness-aided. Still, I look back and have a deep appreciation for the days I’ve been gifted with and feel a deep sense of relaxation (again, perhaps Guinness-aided).

It’s nice to take a moment and cherish the moments that made it special. The most recent was seeing Bernadette hit every drive off the tee like she was a professional, which, of course she was. And by the tenth hole I could watch her tee off and not be nervous. Drives would come off her driver as if they were pre-ordained. And I’m always amazed if only because that means her clubhead has to be exactly straight (i.e. neither tilted north or south one iota) every time. I have trouble making sure the clubhead is straight before I hit the ball let alone midway through a swing. I found it hi-laire at the difference between her and the other gals, for politically incorrect reasons. If I was playing “spot the heterosexual” it wouldn’t be a close call. When the Columbus Dispatch mentioned some other woman as “best dressed” I was sure they hadn’t seen Bernadette.

Part of what was cool about it was the sense of adventure, the getting up so early in the morning and breaking the routine of life. Something as small as that really makes a difference. And there was the adrenalin of being at my first pro tournament, of watching what they do, how much the pros talk, how country-quiet it is, how they announce who's tee'ing off and their hometown, how a group of two or three follow them around writing down the scores and toting a sign of where they are in relation to par.

I didn’t get to go to Miami or Glynnwood or read at Darby but the Reds and LPGA are significant enough to ameliorate some of the pain. Still, I’m thinking a few more days next year might be the ticket. And it was good to see Mom & Dad: long bike ride with Mom. I also gainsayed some beautiful books too at the Half-price bookstore they have down there. Came away pregnant with books and the treasure of Grandma’s scrapbook, which I carefully scanned Tuesday morning. There was something special in the air that Tuesday morn, the dust motes lit up in the morning sun, the ancient text and images from a bygone era satisfyingly transplanted to the “permanent” venue of digital storage. Then in the afternoon, sitting outside in the ecstasy of sun and plant, exuberant and giddy before the expanse of time before me, I bled some of that joy into the journal.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

 

Aquinas says that gluttony is the closest sin to lust but from a practical viewpoint it seems anger is a kissing cousin. And while there is a righteous anger, the less righteous type seems similar to lust in its demand for its own way or the highway. Both are bred or fed in restlessness, both are anti-reflective, anti-meditative...both stir up the blood. A confessor once said that lust is exacerbated by stress, which seems a convenient enough excuse given modern life. I noted it, but didn't buy it.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

 

I don’t much like the cut of August’s gib. Perhaps I’m prejudiced or paranoid, but sometimes I swear there’s something in the air that intimates the Fall of summer. If so that would be a tragedy and I can only hope summer’s demise is greatly exaggerated. I can’t get everything done I’d like to do but I’m out there trying to do it as if checking them off. I would have much more souiciance if I had confidence I could face winter serenely rather than getting everything out of summer. Going to a Red’s game is small consolation in deep February. Which would auger for more spiritual, less sensual.

I do rest amazed in how things have changed over the past decade. I used to want to hang in forgetfulness but now I feel a constant underlying anxiety that I’m not doing much for Him. Amazing that I could waste time with such proficiency then! Partially it was because I was less religious and partially it was because there was so much time that it was inconceivable to even imagine it a perishable resource.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

 

Went to the Clippers game today, an exercise in futility. It’s amazing how banal baseball can be in the wrong circumstances. Perhaps I wasn't in the mood. But the sound in the ballpark was deafening – every school group in Central Ohio was there and they have lungs and they make good use them. People were coming and going with a frequency that defies decription. It felt like a social event with a baseball game serving as the computer wallpaper. Does anyone really watch a game anymore? I think when you charge so little (as is the case in minor league baseball) perhaps no one cares enough to actually watch the game. With the Reds everyone is infinitely quieter and more attententive (although I recognize it could be a class or age difference). The game is qualitatively different with the Reds - it's almost meditative. At Clipper's Stadium it's as meditative as a school dance.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

 

The one thing I learned in adulthood is that you cannot know what you don't know. So I do not fault Bush for going to war over WMDs, because he operated on the fact that there were WMDs. There was no way for him to know there weren’t any when every intelligence agency in the world thought Saddam was loaded down with them. Similarly, there was no way to know that my mother was not representative of all mothers. There was no way for me to know that her beautiful – dare I say sacred? - habit of putting everything away and in its place was not replicated across all women over all time.

Marriage necessarily blindsides one. You can feel no guilt at not anticipating what could not be anticipated. Growing up, I thought that kitchen counters preferred an absence of items to such an extent that they emptied themselves of items. I thought that clutter disappeared of its own accord. It did seem a sort of magic: leave a cereal bowl on the counter and within an hour it would disappear. Kreskin could do no better.

But of course it was my mother doing it. That she complained about us leaving stuff about – like paper clippings and rubber bands (I was a paper boy) – seemed like white noise in the background. Static on 45rpm records. Rubber bands? Was she kidding? What is a rubber band here or there among friends? Of course there never was a rubber band here or there among friends because my mom picked it up before it hit the ground. So order in house & garage was taken for granted. Order, like breathing, is only appreciated when it's withheld.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

 

My past haunts – ironically, not my past salaciousness, but my past of perfect zeal soon after I reverted. In that perfect zeal I felt a closeness to the Church Fathers – me and Cyril were like tthis (press fingers together) – and now I feel a bit more…a bit more distant. Like Cyril of Jerusalem and Tom of Columbus aren’t bosom buddies. I suppose I wasn’t as good then, nor as bad as I think I am now. Feelings are a ruse engineered by the devil.

Karen Hall of “Some Have Hats” is so admirably Ignatian and Thomas of Disputations so Thomisty and Steven Riddle so Johnian and Dawn Eden so Kolbe-ian that sometimes I fear that I’ve left behind some saint that I’m supposed to revere but have been too dense to pick up the signals. Am I too flighty when it comes to saints? I’ve had brief but powerful liaisons with St. Pio and St. Therese, and Blessed Margaret. Am I disloyal to them in not consistently remembering them or am I assuming their interest in me is greater than it actually is?

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Friday, July 08, 2005

 

I feel a bit more alone than I did last week. Of my parents & brothers & sisters, of whom there are five in toto, I'm apparently the only "professional Catholic", that is, perhaps the only one who believes the church is The Church. And it saddens me and I feel a bit isolated. And a bit burdened by the responsibility to do something as well as keenly aware of my powerlessness and futility, having only apologetics. More praying needed, less apologetics. Certainly my reputation must've proceeded me because although I never bring up religion and my brother never does, he did this time. And so we went over the whole landscape. The issues:

Him: You really believe you have to confess your sins to a priest?
Me: Yes, for very serious sins. We are a sacramental church. (How does one begin to explain apostolic/sacramental church to this age? That priests have gifts beyond what can be seen?)

Him: Many Protestants believe the Eucharist is the body & blood too you know.
Me: Well they don't act like it. They don't have Eucharistic Adoration. They don't celebrate Communion daily.

Him: There is no such thing as Hell. There can't be infinite punishment for a finite sin.
Me: I'm very sympathetic. Right there with you. But we have no choice but to believe it, Jesus said Hell was real. Plus if there's no Hell, no free will. Instead of judging the Church by our opinions, why not judge our opinions by the Church?

(later)

Him: That's fine, I can't argue with you because I don't know all of that but you should talk to my inlaws. I would love to see that discussion. Because they would persuasively refute all of what you said. They don't believe a priest performs magic on the altar. Extremists always think they're right. You're just Catholic because you were born Catholic.

Me: Maybe I am Catholic because I was raised Catholic but that doesn't change the fact that it's either/or. Someone has to be right! Either the bread and wine during Communion become the Body & Blood of Christ, or not! You have to make a bet on what is true, not just say that because people believe completely different things then not take a stand- well that's where faith comes in. And faith is a gift, and it comes and goes...

Him: There's no teaching at Mass. At Baptist services they have an overhead projector and bibles and they really study.
Me: That's not the purpose. It's to worship although I do wish the homilies were much better. Teaching comes outside of the church service. We have bible studies at our church.

Him:Protestants know the bible forward and backward.
Me:Protestants aren't as well-educated as you think. Their view of history is that nothing happened between 100 A.D. and Martin Luther.And the Church came out of the bible, not the other way around. There was no bible for the first couple hundred years. Jesus made apostles, he didn't write scripture.

Him: At Baptist services they have great music and great instructional talks...
Me: Mass is not about what we can get out of it, but what we can give to God. It's not about being entertained with great music, but worshipping God.
Me: It comes down to whether you believe Christ intended a visible, physical church or just a spiritual one.
Him: Yes, that's a good point.

(later)

Him: I'm against abortion, I believe life begins at conception.
Me: Good, then you're against the birth control pill, because it's an abortificient.
Him: No it's not!...

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

 

Here on the lip of Saturday night, where the partying is near its end, I remember how good today was. The sweet fatigue. The hot shower. The 3:30pm Outback food. The night given over to the writing up the trip log. But most of all I remember the still, quiet voice of the priest who absolved me of my sins and I came out of the confessional unmarked, unblemished, like a saint. In the village of the clean-souled, ready to take up the saber again but remembering I must be more childlike and that includes telling God when I’m upset or mad or I think things aren’t working. Do I forget that he knows me better than I know myself? The key is to relax and tell him things. And he’ll take care of it because He’s much bigger than me.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

 

Oh I feel scandalously alive when I write fiction! When I’m onto something! oh beauty to wake up in the morning still pregnant with dreams and birth them in the journal. Maybe even figure out what they mean. (I'm tempted to buy that dream decoder book on booksforcatholics.com).

Hope entitles one to the feeling that things can be glorious tomorrow, and what is a new day but a fresh chance, writ in the heavn's by the return of the sun? I hunger at odd times to read “Worthy is the Lamb” and at other times the idea leaves me flat. I want to write beautiful, holy things, like more of the story of Nuala. Oh the joy of Ireland, of unknown lands! I see a glimmer of the refreshment Tolkien must’ve felt in writing of MiddleEarth.

Vacation looms and I hope it isn’t dissipative. I want to be a holy rest, to write great stuff, to grow spiritually. Most of all I don’t want it to be a teenage lustland, a sort of “On the Road” only the road is the strip in front of our villa.

Meanwhile Friday is our annual Memorial Day camp trip with the inlaws, which aught not nonplus me because it’s a 3-day weekend one week before a vacation week. There couldn’t be better timing.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

 

Time goes by so much faster as we age that it makes the seasons much more temporal. When I was young, winter and summer seemed experientially more or less permanent fixtures. So there was no need to gather up and treasure a warm day in May, for there were plenty more where that came from, nor any need to cling to a warm October day. It’s odd how the concept of the seasons changes over the years in that way.

I read somewhere that one of the reasons this person moved south was they were tired of having to go through the whole preparation, mental and otherwise, of winter every year. And winter becomes more rigorous as I age, which is as inexplicable as food becoming more important (when I was a kid, the thought of sitting down to dinner at a restaurant when you could play tag or basketball seemed as foreign as copulation).

So now I can’t hear the dulcet tones of “Roll Out the Barrell” without thinking of the cherished Oktoberfests, there in the crisp late Sept air, when we bravely face the winter and try to pretend its not going to happen with the help of happy music and German beer. Oktoberfests have become so seasonally-defined that even hearing the music in the spring seems wrong, like giving a funeral sermon at a wedding.

I'm wary about the experience of my elders. Since I enjoy eating at restaurants now, I'm hip to the fact that it's likely their experiences and reactions to life will become mine. So I'm not pleased that they almost uniformly loathe winter more as they age. That lucky Billy Luse.

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I’m always looking for the correct balance to things, as if the secret to life is finding the right combination of reading, prayer, study, work, drink, poetry, non-fiction, etc. I rarely error too much on any given side of things, though I’m not positive I would know it. The grand mistake of my teens and twenties was to mistake survival as the only good. The paradigm was my first responsibility was to survive, and survival was predicated on some minimum daily requirement of pleasure. (I was far too influenced by Sol Gordon’s statement that “If we want to grow up, and not old, we should be able to intensely enjoy at least the number of things equal to our age.”) But now of course it must first be to serve God, on whom the responsibility of my survival lies.

As someone with a practical bent, I’ve always looked at life in utilitarian terms: something to be endured and survived. As an eight-year old I was asking how to make it to Heaven as if it there were a ten-point plan instead of a matter of purblind trust in Christ. “Safety first” has to be the great enemy of Christianity. When told about dying poor in Africa it seemed nonsensical to own anything that didn’t sustain life; how could one own a television when it might be sold for $50 and feed a family in Africa for a month? That might sound radical but it’s actually completely utilitarian and practical: it is common sense that if you have a television and someone in Africa doesn't have food, you trade your television so that they could have food. The ideal in this case is the practical, and there’s the rub. This leads, of course, to great tension.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

 

Marriage means having to say you're sorry when you don't know exactly what you've done wrong. I've found that a general obsequiousness works best in the long run.

Went to a niece's 18th birthday party last night. L. looks embarrassment when S. hugs her and I marvel at how most of the outlaws follow a familiar pattern: cold, non-huggers, independent souls who are attracted to a family that is hugging, warm, and fiercely dependent.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

 

I quit my job after 17 years (3,621 work days) on the day I realized I still had exactly 3,621 more work days left to go. The fact was too staggering to bear for a mere mortal. Other than my boss and co-workers and the nature of the work itself, I liked Orange Corporation. I liked the food at cafeteria, liked the hours, liked the credit union rates.

It was 2:48pm on a Friday when I made the life-altering decision. It was easy. I was surprised at how easy! I double-clicked on the “Word” icon on my desktop and a blank note popped up at my command. I typed the following double-spaced:

“Effective two weeks hence, April 24th at 5:00pm, I proclaim my liberation from Orange Corp. After 730 meetings, 4,804 cups of stale coffee and a string of bosses who made the Marquis De Sade look like a hale fellow well-met, I am ready to call it quits.”

I dated it and slipped it under my bosses keyboard, near a Post-it note that said cryptically, “follow-up on new Follow-Up strategy”.

The notion of freedom was intoxicating and heady. The spring mornings leading up to the 24th felt pregnant with possibility. At work I was the Dead Man Walking, seeming alive but soon to be cut off from everyone’s consciousness. But at home I was Alive Man Waking. Instead of listening to news and pontificating on what was wrong with the world, I was listening to old Statler’s Brothers tapes and eating cinnamon toast and Captain Crunch. I even made some French Toast which I hadn’t done since sick days during high school. That last morning I drove to work it was freakishly warm and sunny. I rolled down the windows of the Mustang and sang “School’s Out For Summer” at the top of my lungs.

Though I quit Orange, I could not afford to retire completely. For the same reason adults dress up in costumes and become someone else at Halloween parties, I decided to change careers completely. I bought a pair of jean overalls I found at a surplus store and picked up some motor oil at 7-11 and smeared it all over my clothes. I let my face gain the bristly consistency of a 3-day beard. I was ready then. Ready for my interview with “Kreiger Auto Repair” in a small town off the outskirts of Columbus.

“What ‘sperience you got in car repair?” he asked gruffly after motioning to sit down on a chair that showed some of its stuffing.

“I have owned cars for nearly 20 years (I paused as I let that sink in) and I have sucessfully opened the hoods even of cars where it is tough to find the latch. I have also changed the occasional tire, put on the spare. I’ve been expert at diagnosing and correcting deficient levels of gasoline – I would say that is my specialty because few people are better at judging how much gas they have left than I.”

“You’ll need training...”

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It's not widely known that Hitler didn't commit suicide but escaped to the spas of Baden-Baden where he taught German as a second language to American ex-pats.

I lived their briefly in the '60s, attracted by the nearby Black Forest (which had fascinated me from my youth because of its depiction in Disney's "Snow White"). I was there also because of a family rumor that my great-grandmother had emigrated from Baden-Baden around 1880. I wanted to find ancestors and distant cousins to see how the family tree branched in the Old Country, to try and discover how geography affected our psychic and spiritual landscapes. I also wanted to know why it wasn't just called Baden.

I sat in on one of Hitler's classes on a tip from a friend who'd already been there awhile; I sat in back fearfully, expecting an explosion of rage at some point, perhaps over a split infinitive. I reminded myself the camps were no longer in use.

It didn't take him long to mention his past.

"And yes I wanted the north countries too. Which countries are those? Does anyone know?"

One girl raised her hand.

"Schveeden?"

"Ja! Yeah."

"Norway," I said.

"Auf Deutsch!"

Hitler hadn't aged well and seemed a pathetic figure. He also didn't seem repentant. He boasted of taking countries as if they were fraternity pranks of a misspent youth. The deaths of so many people - did he not realize what he had done, or would that knowledge have been too much to take?

"Don't you feel responsibility for the millions killed?"

"I feel responsibility for teaching you German."

The banality of evil.

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I’ve written previously of my new cubical mate who is fond of making loud noises to clear his nose. The problem is I begin to anticipate. I get antsy if it’s been three minutes without a clearing. I want him to get it over with so that I can resume task.

My wife says there’s an Indian at her work who does the same thing so I’m beginning to assume it’s a cultural difference. I’m wishing, natch, that the cultural difference was something of a quieter variety.

I miss the privacy of my old cube. It was so dead late in the day that I felt sufficiently bold to change into my workout clothes there. Saved me at least a minute or two of time.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

 

Spore me a prayer
from the Holy Host
Take my numbness and
the distance between You and me
so that Ineffable, Invisible you
may show thyself to effable, visible me.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

 

Oh to retreat to the womb of the library where the air is colored with sun-motes and thick with the scent of bindings and paper, and where reassurances live in their seeming permanence on shelves carrying on like Atlas. The spring sun enters through the west window and casts a transforming glow over the rosewood cases, turning their trunks into auburn jewels.

Like a sea maiden calling from the near shore the leather couch sings as if to trap me in her feather caress, into which I could slump in sublime comfort and never escape. I mean to retrieve the Ratzinger volumes and consume them in one long text-fest while not missing anything of the hundred television programs that, like Cinderella, will expire at midnight.

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I decided to write a novel because I have Microsoft Word and writing one has never been easier.

My friend told me to make an outline because that’s what some published authors do. I thought about that. But I began writing it anyway because I like seeing paragraphs, not outlines of paragraphs.

I know I have to introduce characters. I’m not sure you can write a novel without characters. Perhaps it’s been done but I’m not aware of it.

Describing characters has never been more difficult because they have to be based on real life people unless you have a really terrific imagination. Yet we real life people often make ourselves into one-dimensional characters by one-dimensional lives. Even when something really serious comes along, like our death, we have our loved ones tell the mortuary to decorate our coffins with Cleveland Browns paraphenaila. It’s hard to take us seriously even though we’re created by God Himself and we’re the most serious thing there is on earth. We whittle our lives down by avoiding pain in all its forms and then expect the trumpets to blow come Judgment Day.

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What a long, strange trips it's been. Cardinal Ratzinger is Pope. What an April to remember. Heard the totemic "Habemus Papam", a phrase I haven't heard in over twenty-five years, a third of a the average life.

The tendency for me as an American is to regard what is foreign as neutral at best and against our interests at worst. So to hear the foreign-sounding words Habemus Papam provides a counterbalance. For this German who is now pope has some measure of control over me, has some responsibility for me, and protects my interests. "Brothers and sisters" he began. We are family. Hearing the grand words "Habemus Papam" recalls the universality of the Church in a vivid way. Germans, Poles, Africans, Italians, Mexicans, Americans, bonded beyond blood to something higher and infinitely greater.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

 

Back in the mid-70s, on the way home from church, my brother and sister and I would begin the chant "Stop and Get a Malt, Malt, Malt, Malt. Stop and get a Malt, Malt, Malt, Malt". The destination implied was Jolly's Root Beer stand, which in addition to frosted mugs of the coldest root beer shy of Anchorage, they had delicious malts. They might've had shakes too but shakes were never even considered. Even the word "shake" didn't have the power or authority that "malt" had.

In retrospect I thought we batted about .333, a respectable average. Rod Carew numbers anyway. But my brother recently said that he remembers the chant but not the payoff. He never remembers getting a malt. This surprised me, but then he is six years younger and it’s possible that most of the "hits" were early in our career. I think if I'd gotten any more malts they'd have been taken for granted, any fewer and I'd have wondered why we didn't get more. A balance rare.

We might've gone more often during the summer for root beer though I can't be sure. I've never gotten close to as thirsty as an adult as I did as a kid. I assume it was because caught up in play you manage to forget about drinking or eating for awhile. But when I was ten, eleven I could work up a thirst that was other-worldly and the other-worldly antidote was Jolly's Root Beer. It was impossible to sip; I recall downing it in two gulps, two long powerful gulps with the ice shavings from the glass as the cherry topping. And I remember thinking there never was a drink invented that quenched thirst better than Jolly's Root Beer.

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A saint, one of the Borgias amazingly (just two generations from the corrupt Borgia popes) once converted from a dissolute lifestyle in an unusual way. He was in a funeral procession for a beautiful woman who'd died, the most beautiful woman in his town, and it happened that an accident dislodged the casket and the body, now partially corrupted, came forth. He was so stunned by this graphic display of how temporary our our beauty is that he gave his life to spiritual pursuits.

I also find it spiritually profitable (if not as profitable as our saint whose name escapes me did) to think on the corruptibility of our flesh. I recently saw an actress who I had a tremendous crush on, the one who played Daisy Duke on the "Dukes of Hazzard", and she looks different now. Very different. Age is a cruel thing but it really reminded me how meaningless looks are. We're all scarcely separated from being bones.

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Horrible fire at Miami U. killed three students. Three of whom were drunk. It was a Sunday morning/Saturday night so I can't much blame them. There but for the grace of God go I. Their vulnerability is such that I hope they were prepared. It would be hard for me to fathom any of them going to Hell when I, who was/am no more deserving, was preserved long enough to repent. Hopefully they have nothing seriously to repent of.

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A pleasant enough week, at least while the alcohol flowed. Fri, Sat, Sun & Monday were all extravagantly laden with Guinness and Beck Darks. The weekend because it was warm and sunny and because it was the weekend. Monday? Because it was Red's Opening Day and I'd taken a half-day. That nice stretch of time made Tues-Wed-Thurs a mere pinprick. By Friday it was getting old though, my brain fatigued by Access queries and a dearth of poetry.

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I've noticed that dad's side of the family always seemed infused with mystery while my mom's side seemed to have much less mystery.

Mom's side came to Ohio because a famine in Ireland in 1846 caused our ancestors to choose between death and America. No contest. No mystery why they came.

But with my dad's side it's shadier. We don't know why they left Germany, or even where James Smith came from. James Smith is like Melchizedek - we don't know where he came from or why or when he left. His story is mystery personified, but there's more mystery where that came from.

When I was a kid the film "Roots" got me interested in genealogy. I started, naturally, with my four grandparents and realized if not for the first time how odd it was to have only three living grandparents. As I got older the loss only felt greater because you can know yourself better if you know your parents, and you can know your parents better if you know their parents. And I never knew her. Even her name was foreign to me. While "Margaret" tripped easily off the tongue, I had to remember to pray for "Ruth".

My wife says I care more for the dead than the living but I always look at it more as reverence for those who have passed on and experience what we only long for - the presence of God. And the dead have the advantage of growing greater in hindsight. But how much greater can someone grow whom I never knew! Hence I imagine Ruth as a bright spot in the heavenly firmament.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

 

He burned his notes
for which Matthews praised him
a humble act for a pope
he said.

For different reasons
I'd best burn my notes
and the lines that arch-ache
into bosom-blossoms of flesh,
each nuance chiseled
by the light of lanterns
held to the holy curves of
pistillate flowers.

They haunt the inner drawers
of a former life and gather
in the hid-circuits of this machine.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

 

Thought experiment: I sent the book out to a fellow blogger at their request and at my expense (i.e. it was free to them). Should I feel put out that they never acknowledged receipt of it let alone thanked me? Perhaps they thought that they would have to say something kind about it in order to acknowledge it and they preferred not to say anything instead of something negative. I wonder if I should email that person and ask them if they received it or just suck it up and "offer it up" as was popular pre-Vatican II? The funny thing is I seem to have a different standard for Catholic bloggers than a cousin or uncle. If a relative had asked for it, I would've sent it and expected no comment. Interesting...

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Friday, April 08, 2005

 

This week was also attended by the unpleasantry of having to move from my protected, private and unmolested hideaway to the first cube in the throughway just outside Jack’s office. It was either there or practically share a cube with Steve Fix in Melanie’s old cube, and I recall with disdain the times I visited her there. Her cube seemed set in low-lying land prone to floods and mosquitos and mudslides. A sad orange chair sat in the cube, a cast-off that looked like something one would find on a Appalachian’s porch. I moved it outside the cube and a few hours later it was back where it was, like Poe’s raven. Torn between bad real estate and worse, I went with Mike Porter’s very visible old cube. People stopped by to wish me well or welcome me to the neighborhood, which only made me feel more overexposed than I already was. It was like wearing a sign.

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So much news in such a short period. One feels more alive when history makes a housecall. The overhype of the 24-7 cable news means that what is considered news is usually cotton candy mistaken for steak. But this – oh this – is different. When a saint dies you become attentive. When a pope dies, you become attentive. When a saint and a pope dies you hold the moment to your bosom because you know that you’ll not see this, or their like, again. A teachable moment, and one that by virtue of its surpassing rarity it imprints on your consciousness. As rare as one of our yearly liturgies, a papal funeral Mass is as rare as it gets. And now comes the unbearable suspense in waiting to see who the Cardinals choose as our next spiritual father. The saying goes “may you live in interesting times” and these times are interesting. The news of the past four years as been nothing if not electric. A tied 2000 election that went to the Supreme Court. 9/11. Iraq. Terri Schivao. The Pope. So much grist for prayer. These times seem to call for involvement.

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I’m involved in an alcohol relocation program – relocating it from the refrigerator to my stomach.

* * *

I’m a bit jealous of Walker Percy’s enthralldom with semiology. He always felt like he was “on to something” even though semiologists suggests his studies were, well, crackpot. I’ve always longed to be a crackpot, but for optimal effect I don’t think you can know you’re one. It’s like watching a baseball game and thinking it as pointless. There has to be meaning infused in it, something riding on it, for it to be truly engaging. Which is why I tend to watch Opening Day and the playoffs. Both make or break heroes. And the heroic is what enthralls us.

* * *

Everything you need to know about the ‘80s can be said by the fact that there was a successful rock band that called themselves “Loverboy”.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

 

Tom of Disputations writes that the reactions of people is "less a reflection on the Pope than it is on the selectors themselves."

Very true. The statements by recent presidents were nothing if not predictable. Carter liked the Pope's desire for peace, Clinton liked the mercy, Bush the life issues. Of course we've been doing that with Jesus for 2,000 years too so the Pope's in good company.

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I ill spent my illness I’m afraid. I laid down and watched all of “Lawrence of Arabia” which led to a bit of curiosity about T.E. Lawrence. I read an encyclopedia entry about him. He seemed a daredevil but what made him tick? Did he really die in a motorcycle accident after the war? How like Patton this sounded. Both took enormous risks in war only to die in the vehicle accidents in the safety of peace.

I did watch the “Passion of Joan of Arc”, a 1928 silent film. It was pretty good if only for the excerpts from the transcript of her trial. Enjoyed seeing when and where she made those comments that seemed to twist her persecutors in knots, so like Christ did of the Pharisees who were constantly trying to trap him. Some of the faces were positively Fellini-like. Very odd and memorable. The film certainly lived up to the title – she did have something close to Christ’s passion. Even to being mocked by wearing a faux crown and scepter. And her feeling of being forsaken which made her sign a confession.

I watched “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Munsters” which are the sort of sticky confection that go so well with sickness. I can’t imagine watching “The Munsters” healthy. I just can’t slow my mind and body sufficiently to do something so wasteful and in the moment. Sad.

Still I could’ve read much more. I could’ve read deeply of prose-y books filled with art. One needs a spot of art in life. I should’ve picked up something meaty and yet readable, like “War and Peace”. After the last Percy read there’s a real hole in my reading artillery. I can’t find anything lyrical and consolatory. Sure I could read Updike but he’s so inconsistent. Maybe I could get Proust. Instead I was reading about a woman reading Proust. Two degress of separation kind of thing, but not the same. Accept only original sources.

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I feel like there’s been too much to absorb of late. First the ups and downs with regard to Terri’s situation. Was I doing enough? Was I praying and fasting enough? Did I care enough? It was a haunting. When Congress came in and the President like a white knight arrived in the middle of the night to sign a bill they seemed to make things right with the world again. The good guys always win, don’t they? But then came the court hammer which said, in effect, “we’ll take a message and get back to you”. And when the message came in it wasn’t good. The feeding tube sat unused. And Terri died suddenly, not suddenly, after some 13 days, and the injustice was made permanent, writ on tombstone.

And I hadn’t been able to digest that. It was still on the subconscious. Drained with no time to refill, our Pope was suddenly on a feeding tube. And then he died. And now I can't catch up. I need to write all this out.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

 

Our pastor said that they need help with Bingo, which is the major fundraiser for our Catholic school. Now I'm not exactly an extrovert and the idea of going to bingo strikes me as nothing short of pentitential. (Can I bring a book?) But I don't see how I can avoid it; the previous parish I was desperate for bingo workers and I avoided it and forever felt that I was a leech.

So I believe in Catholic schools and the crucial role catechisis plays and I feel I should do my part, to pitch in, to be a team player, to have works and not just faith, to ... (stop me here anytime).

So I'm going to up and volunteer. End of whine.

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• • • • •

 

Just heard an "audioblog" on Surburban Banshee's site. She sings a self-written protest song about Terri Schiavo. The lyrics are good and after some initial tenseness her voice quite good. Still, it cracks me up what hams we bloggers are. It's not enough to show off with our writing, now we want to make sure others hear our voice. On the other hand, an audioblog is crack cocaine to the reader. I was grateful that she took the chance and even googled "St. Blog's" + "audioblog" to find others. There is a great satisfaction in hearing someone's voice or seeing a picture after reading them for awhile.

But I think posting a picture or putting your voice on the blog is a destroyer of mystery. Let the reader imagine. Imagination is good. Of course, if you are good looking or have an excellent voice then destroying the mystery isn't the worst thing to do. Since I'm average looking with an average voice, I'm in no particular hurry to ham it up. Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to Harold's Square...

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Thursday, March 31, 2005

 

I'm fighting off an intense dislike for everyone who is contra-Terri Schiavo or Christianity in general. I'm laid low by the insults by being called an idiot by colunmist/bloggestress Nall (by virtue of being on the Christian right), by the Protestant anti-Catholic minister who can't find a good word to say about the Pope, by Chris Matthews. I shouldn't take it personally because it is most certainly not about me. Being called an idiot shouldn't phase me. It is about Terri. It's about the Church. It's about Christ.

Collecting insults from tv/blog pundits eventually just wear at you unless you respirate them out in prayer and journal. Praying for them may sound condescending given my own beams but it is spiritually medicinal.

Nall blog-hates the Christian right. Most days I don't visit her site, but see my blog title. But we can't fight fire with fire. By definition a follower of Christ can't spew hatred for hatred. A conservative radio host in Cincinnati said this morning that he's been getting hate mail you can't believe from pro-Terri Christians concerning the Schiavo case, littered with G-d's and m-f's.

Chris Matthews this morning reacted viscerally to Don Imus's saying simply that he liked Sen. Santorum. Matthews was outraged that Sen. Santorum recently said a prayer before that Schiavo special Senate session because they didn't have a chaplain. He said it shows we're heading towards a theocracy. So Matthews is okay with having a chaplain say a prayer before a senate session but not a senator? The paranoia and hysteria over Christianity these days is surreal and beginning to seem demonic.

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The common flippin' cold. How bad can that be? Yet I always have vague imaginings that it's strept throat, a nascent pneumonia, a vast decline.

I'm always impressed by my low threshold for pain. I almost made it through the winter unscathed but now have a cold now and it's fellin' me. I think women deal with pain better than men because they have that monthly cycle thing going on and because men (or at least I) can go through vast quantites of time feeling no pain. And that's not even while drinking.

Speaking of drinking, I need a Guinness iv. I had a single Guinness last night and it was nectar of the gods. Nothing soothes a battered consitution and aching sore throat like a cold Guinness.

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

 

Spent Saturday afternoon wandering the confines of Half Price Books. I was looking for a Joan of Arc biography. I’ve been increasingly fascinated by her and a recent Discovery show led me to wanting a bit more information behind her decision to disregard her voices and leap from a sixty-six foot tower while imprisoned. (She survived the fall, which is a sort of metaphor for our spiritual life – our sins are not always fatal.) I found a biography but didn’t buy it since I can find it cheaper on the internet. Still, I wondered amid the print and amassed numerous books which were eventually defragged to just four (spent $20).

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Sleep hath been restored the last couple weeks. The anti-allergy medicine I was taking seems the likely suspect. Know Claritin, no sleep. No Claritin, know sleep. At least for me it’s worked thusly. Sleep has been so delicious that I’m reluctant to leave the world of dreams. They seem so damn interesting, at least until I wake up, when they seem disappointingly banal. For example, I dreamt we named our intramural basketball team “The Solzhenitsyn’s” only because we felt if we lost at least we’d have the compensation of being able to say we could spell Solzhenitsyn (sp?). The world of dreams has that compellingly deep engagement to figmentary things.

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Saw a 1948 picture of Uncle Bob at Grandma’s place today. He looked thinner, smaller and more Connaught-y than I expected (the latter is laughable – I expected him to look like the Byrnes’s?). He intrigues me more than most of my ancestors because Grandma said he was a good person, because he drew a very lovable young lady to him in marriage (who told him he'd have to quit drinking for one year if she'd marry him (he refused and never married)), and because he was a very functional alcoholic. Anyone who can make not just a living but a good living while drinking heavily earns my interest if not necessarily my admiration.

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• • • • •

 

Like a dog dripping drool from its lips in tenderloin anticipations, so did I come to this desk wanting to “drop the leash”. Ready to let fly some pent-ups from anecdotes stacked like IHOP ‘cakes.

Two gilt-swords opened new territory in my closely monitored, barbwired soul: one was that “we’re in this together”. The everlasting lie is to assume that our progress is our own responsibility. I got a glimmer of God saying cheerfully “we’re on the same team here. I may be the judge, but I’m not a neutral observer.” And I knew for a sliver that my job is to do the best I can. It’s a joint effort. Also I can’t hold myself solely responsible for the conversions of people I scarce know, or even people I know well. My tendency is to always consider it a fact that if Catholics acted like the receivers of unparallelled gifts, as we are, then no one would be other than Catholic. This tendency, while having something to recommend it, is a recipe for personal disaster. And while it’s true that the only thing wrong with the Christianity is Christians, the fix is not instanteous. There’s no “saint in a day – just add water” formula.

The other beauty mark on the day was the consoling Easter homily of the gentle priest at St. Ann’s in Hamilton. While I regret missing Mass at my own parish on Easter, I am rarely disappointed at St. Ann’s. With a burst of song the jubyls began: “Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Our triumphant holy day!”. Oh and to say the Glorious Mysteries on the Glory Day! To begin with the Mystery of the Resurrection on the Feast of the Resurrection!

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

 

At the risk of sounding like I'm into phrenology, somehow the respective lawyers of the Schindlers & Schiavo look the part, don't they? The cherubic-faced Shindler lawyer & the hardened Schiavo counsel.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

 

Leaving nothing unpublished, even if it's already published, vol 2:

When I begin flagging energy-wise I have 2-4 tablespoons of nutritional Brewer's yeast in milk at breakfast. This allows more latitude in my "sins" of sugar/caffeine/alcohol.

Of course, the problem is if I'm low on energy I don't have the will/energy to eat right. The very definition of a viscious cycle.

But don't do as I do, do as I say.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

Following my policy of leaving nothing unpublished, even if it's published elsewhere, here's a comment I made on m'Lynn's blog:

Walker Percy is so much more lyrical than O'Connor. His prose is dreamlike and sensuous. O'Connor's is so intense and relentless that like Recovering Owl I need break. O'Connor's letters ("Habit of Being") though are beyond wonderful. I sense O'Connor was a much better Christian alas. At least that's what Shelby Foote said about Walker in a collection of letters I read between the two of them. Foote said something like "you're not a Catholic writer like O'Connor".

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Monday, March 21, 2005

 

One of the things I'd hoped for was that St. Blogs become a network of pray-ers. But our influence sometimes seems marginal at best. Three bloggers once on the brink of Catholicism - Crystal, Thomas of ER & Camassia - appear to be shrugging indifferently. I know conversions are the work of God but it is hard not to grow discouraged when prayers seem long unrequited.

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Sunday, March 20, 2005

 

The ALS patient died yesterday.

He worked at my wife's shop.

He was brave and gentle and heroic as
his muscles failed one by one by one
over years until he lost breath
and there was suffocation.

I wanted to cry bitter tears for this
man I scarcely knew
just for the outrage of it
this macabre death
this slow freeze.

The butterfly flies aloft now.

Pray for me John.

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• • • • •

 

He was too glad to see my wife. That was my first thought. My second that he looked the part of uninteresting social climber, a typical corporate aspirant. Probably read management books and acquired sleep at night by counting the commas in his paycheck.

He had opaque oval blue eyes and wore a gay green party hat on his head. He had a cat-like alertness that seemed to implicitly say: "I am more alive than you!". This passed through my mind while being introduced to him, before I could dismiss them as uncharitable thoughts.

"This is Eric...this is the one I was telling you about who read "Dawn to Decadence".

I looked at him with renewed interest, curiosity even. So this was the dedicated reader my wife spoke of. Who'd read the magisterial Jacques Barzun, the wise man of history who'd written an 800-page book describing the fall of the West from 1500 to the present.

"You two are exactly alike," my wife said.

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• • • • •

 

Our long national nightmare - winter - is over. The air is temperate; one can relieve oneself on long hikes without risking frostbite of the urinary tract. The dank smell of earth hangs over the landscape like the hawks that return from climes warm. Tell me, why do we call someone of low intelligence a bird-brain when birds have the sense to get out of Dodge when it turns cold?

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Friday, March 18, 2005

 

I’m so ready for some deep reading (no theology, politics – those nerves have been plucked). “Out of Africa” comes to mind. Something soft and warm and challengingly unchallenging. I haven’t sunk my teeth into a good long read in awhile. Sure there was an hour or two with William Trevor last weekend, and that was healing, but I have greater need for reading than I’ve been giving it. And certainly I can’t go Mon-Fri like I did this week without reading. Where do the nights go? I don’t know, they gets squirreled away quick enough.

Got to thinking about my past. I’m amazed at how I’ve changed from my Thoreau days when I felt no responsibility. The results of course are the same – I’m little use to anybody – but now I’ve got the guilt. Yea. Ach, well, Elvis is dead and I don’t feel so good myself.

I've been remembering the sweet times at Sanibel in '03 for some reason. Though the beach was cool, there was time spent rhapsodizing on the sun deck reading Russell Kirk. Reminds me of youthful outings at the old Benninghoffen pool in Hamilton and the sun deck of the old place where there was the sun batter’d us and the quiet lulled us. The beach at Sanibel was too windy, the gulls too gully, and walkers too walky. There was also something special about the moment on the porch beside the shade tree overlooking the pool. Sometimes a vacation is worth it for the ten minutes it imprints on your memory.

I wonder how important books are to a vacation. Is it the Kirk book that “made” the ’03 Sanibel trip and the Pearce Oscar Wilde bio that made Hilton Head ’04? Perhaps. But I do remember some warmth coming off that Sixth Pence book that gave a gilt edge to the cruise.

The problem with January vacations in general is they put you behind the black ball. You’re behind the curve vacationally-speaking. You become stingy through February, thru March and even into April and May. It’s only June, July & August that you let the floodgates open. But Feb-May is a burdensomely long stretch attended, at least in February, by meager light levels and cold temps.

Whine, I'll serve no whine...as it's said of the military grunts in Lipsky's "Four Years at West Point": "they're only happy when they're complaining".

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• • • • •

 

Imagine my surprise when my company (who I tease, but who has been very generous with me) gifted me with something called a "Cell Mate". I'm thinking, oh, great, who will be sharing my cubical? But no it turns out it's a thingie that clings to your dashboard and holds your cellphone in place.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

 

Had interesting discussion with a co-worker, a daily Mass goer who described her frustration at the fact that her previous parish priest was a child abuser but was generally beloved and forgiven because he was gregarious and warm and all those things people apparently want in a pastor. Their current priest is less liked because although he's a good administrator and dutiful and thoughtful, he is more reserved.

I'm glad I was able to bite my lip and not say what I was thinking. I was thinking that his gregariousness should've been the first clue that he was cheating on his vow of celibacy. (You know the joke about how women know when their man is cheating - he's suddenly happy.) The most gregarious males are the ones who have regular sex. Adulterers are often charming. JFK was charming because he was living off the thrill-drug of sexual addiction. Some refer to the Black Dog of depression; what color is the dog - the burden - of horniness?

Sex makes men happier, so the celibate priest lives with a sort of handicap, which, of course, is a part of his heroism. Celibate priests are more necessary than ever if only to prove it can be done. So give me reserved faithful priests any day of the week.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

 

Got linked by Disputations today, which is like being called before the Inquisition: the purpose isn't to praise but to damn, and the best you can hope for is to escape with your life. Which I think I did, more or less, especially given I'm David against Goliath...

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Saturday, March 12, 2005

 

Spent another night tackling the blocking pillows. How frustrating to have to work for sleep! An oxymoron if ever. Part of it is knowing that the next day is our St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and I wanted to have a full rest behind me. Alas if wants were satisified we’d all be our own faeries. Especially where sleeping is concerned, the most Zen-like of activities. One must die to yourself to sleep, die to your thoughts, die even to thoughts of sleep.

Sleep is always much more difficult when I’ve not read much or exercised much. We watched a movie and most movies stimulate without satisfying. Books satisfy me, I rest in the print, like when reading William Trevor’s shy stories of Hibernia, sucking at the teat of Irish nationalism, familiarizing myself again with the touchstonic figures of rurality replete with anachronistic tinctures like ‘meanness’ for ‘stingy’, to whit:

‘That was my turn,’ Lairdman protested, just a little late.
She wouldn’t care for such meanness, Boland though. She’d notice when it began to impinge on her, which in time it would: these things never mattered at first.


Trevor writes in “Third Party” of the dull provincialism of '40s rural Ireland. And perhaps there is something to the dullness of the provincial American life, rife with trivialities, that requires some level of physical activity and mental activity to sufficiently tire mind and body in order to sleep. The level of discourse on IMUS or O’Reilly is surely higher than what I’d find in my ancestral pub in Ireland, no? Would we not be talking of racehorses, of gambling, of the local politicians? Perhaps I go too far in ascribing banality to strictly American life in a television age. There’s a longing awakened when I read Trevor for something more, for classical music, for Shakespeare, even while I know that these things shouldn’t be used as means to an end – i.e. a good sleep - and even while knowing that these things are as dirt before the real mission in life.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

 

Watched Dan Rather's last broadcast and somehow I expected a Nixonian moment: "you won't have Dan to kick around anymore". But none came.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

 

purblind joy
at an unexpected half-day
earned at the elbow of late-night overtime
Jack pulls rank dismissively
buries me till midnight
but foals a day off!

the day’s middle-hours exploited
her middle-thighs
wondrous to behold
or hold
whichever comes
first.

the sky the shade
of blue-white the sun
still regnant
Burbank on the radio
accompanied by Pogues and the scent
of laundry in the middle-distance.

The maples are budding and
I hear birds I can’t recall--
things are happenin’ jack!

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• • • • •

 

Winter is a kind of Lent in and of itself. Denial is a way of life in a season that, by definition, limits. There are no caressing breezes of the south wind, no consoling visions in green. The dirt is hard, iced, not compliant to your ancestrally-conditioned hands, hands made for feeling the soft body of earth in an Ireland made temperate by the surrounding seas.

Embedded in late winter comes Lent and I feel sorry for those in the Southern Hemisphere. The Church was tailor-made for Western Europeans, the feasts all placed for maximum benefit to the Northern Hemisphere. Dec. 25 rightly comes near the equinox when light begins to increase; St. John the Baptist’s feast rightly comes just when the light begins to decrease to give witness to “I must decrease and he must increase”.

Lenten prescriptions are just that – prescriptive. Healing. Much as I am loathe to admit it, I’m thinking that at some point spiritual progress can’t be made without the purposeful withdrawal of inherently good things, like eating, blogging. There are few better ways to assert who is the Boss. That only God matters. Lent is cleansing. I’ve learned this Lent not to try to be who I am not. I am not Tom of Disputations, who is learned and seems focused only on the things of God. His particular charism is more OT prophet-like than mine. I yam what I yam, says Popeye, but so is the “everyman” Christian from the gospel reading last week. He received his sight, but only in degrees.

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Willie & Waylon sing: "Back in Luckenbach, Texas, ain't nobody feelin' no pain".

True, because they're all drunk and don't have jobs.

(Just teasin' Texans, so save your emails. :-)

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

 

I'm a sucker for quirky little things in songs. Like in Dwight Yoakam's great "Guitars, Cadillacs,..." where he sings "another lesson 'bout a naive fool who came to Babylon...".

Only he pronounces "naive" the way I did as a kid, rhyming it was "rave". There's something a little naive in that, hence the kick.

Another simple song I enjoyed was Travis Tritt's "Here's a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares". There's a line about his ex's "sordid affairs", which sounded near enough to "assorted affairs". For some reason I liked the latter better.

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Friday, March 04, 2005

 

Saturday morning last and I couldn’t find a fishing show. Man, it’d been so long since I’d seen one. All I could think was 150 channels but no Saturday morning fishing shows.

I finally found some atrocious “Bass Master”, the Hollywood-ization of fishing shows. The producers apparently watched too many NBA pre-games because it was all rock music and spot lights and stage sets. Nary a lake or river to be seen.

I’ve had such a hunkering for the simple life lately. The Daytona 500 was like a salve. I miss my country music days, the line-dancing, the summer days of wine & gardens. The quiet tendrils of the tomato plants spiralling around the stakes, giving off the scent of memory...

***

In spring the valley hints of rain,
the sky torn till rains
water the thirsts
of newborn plants.

In summer trees grow rings
of girth, leave leaves
big as your hands while
grasses muffle steps.

In fall colors grow festive
restive, a bullion soup
of hue falling at your feet
like seraphim before the Throne.

In winter, oh winter,
what is winter for?
He wondered at
leaves dead, composted,
only to grow again.

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• • • • •

 

All the angst over what is historical and what isn't in the bible seems a bit beside the point, doesn't it? Do I treat Genesis 1 differently than Luke 9? No. It's all inspired. Is it my business whether God chooses to teach through a story or through a historical occurrence?

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

 

GK Chesterton offers the sage advice that we only drink when we're happy. I've found that to be wise since alcohol tends to accelerate the prevailing mood. The obvious deal-killer in this is that I'd rarely get to drink! Fortunately St. Patrick's Day approaches and that great Irish music always puts me in a good mood, as does my friend Ham o' Bone. Slainte!

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The enigmatic Gregg the Obscure returns after a 15-month break from blogging. He mentions that "refraining from blogging was very difficult" and I'm sort of awed by the discipline it must take to quit blogging cold-turkey for that long. My Lenten regulation is not to blog before noon and that actually feels onerous, if you can believe that. KTC admits to being a publicity hound, as am I, and said she could never handle a SiteMeter. I gave Sitemeter up for Lent and it was the sort of sacrifice that paradoxically feels like a burden lifted.

Blogging has taught me that I can't handle fame and that I should avoid it (though I suspect that won't be a problem *grin*). The lust for recognition, for "attaboys", is something I never felt in my real job. But I do feel it in blogging, oddly enough. What inexorably happens is you begin to substitute human props for divine, and that is precisely where madness begins.

I wish Gregg the Obscure had "said more words" concerning what led his to his decision to forego blogging. He did mention his energies could be better used elsewhere, and that is understandable. I certainly feel the same way. But I think what drives over-blogging is that lust for hits, for recognition. So if you salt-peter the drive by taking down SiteMeter and limiting blogging time - with a stopwatch is how Julie of Happy Catholic does it - then it seems you can do it without it taking too much of one's energies. Or so I think aloud.

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Friday, February 25, 2005

 

Little whiffs of time
cigarette traces on windbreakers;
From lit edge of memories
linger nostalgia’s smoke.


Been pondering the past, prompted by reveries spun by internet revelations. What does it say that my favorite teacher was Mrs. H- and my favorite 5th grader was the blonde German Julie Ostendorf? That my 3/8ths German spoke loudly?

My formative experiences were all Teutonic. I found a second family two doors down in the K----'s, 2nd generation Germans. They had imbibed biblical criticism (made famous by 19th century Germans) - Mrs. K asked if I really believed in the Virgin birth and I looked at her like it was a trick question. He could rise from the dead but not be born without a human father? Yet they radiated an old country warmth and were immune to prejudice. Mrs. K’s favorite magazine was “Guideposts” - inspiration without dogma.

I remember high school band fondly. I recall pre-parade wet pavement, hypnotized by the glaring, shiny uniforms of the flag girls, as The Commodores' Three Times a Lady played softly in the background. I went through it without taking responsibility for anything, a completely passive participant in what life would bring. Learning to play tuba in high school teaches two things: one, don’t depend on me for the melody and two, a heavy load limits expectations so don’t expect high jumps...

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In the end it seems most spiritual books are barely disguised self-help books. True religious instruction, as found in St. Alphonsus is a good thing but many are full of platitudes. Platitudes kill religious books. The mantra of novels is don't tell me, show me. Well, the liturgy of Word & Eucharist show me. It's the difference between reading a clinical book about sex and experiencing it. In the end only the sacraments and the the bible are efficacious, because both contain assurance and Source.

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• • • • •

 

On the night before he suffered, he took bread, gave you thanks and praise…

Here cynicism coagulates and finds no mooring; thanks and praise given on the eve of hellacious pain! Time, a human construction, breaks before the Eucharist. Bound no more to wood, he binds to bread.

Do you know my pain? says the Theotokos, and I discover that I don’t know her pain. For you can only experience pain to the extent you have not hardened your heart, have not erected barriers, have not made yourself invulnerable to pain. And only Mary and Jesus can lay claim to perfect vulnerability.

Oh the long-sickness I experienced at St. John's! How it pierced to see the elderly couple a few rows in front of me, how the elderly man stands stock still every time in front of the Blessed Mother icon, how after Communion his wife cradled his face - or did he cradle hers? They meld in my mind, like one flesh.

There can be no substitute for childlikeness. The liturgy teaches that in actions, the bowing, the prostrations, the hymns. The elderly couple seemed innocent as children and it broke my heart that my wife might never know the beauty of a Byzantine liturgy and the Eucharist, or that our simplicity and innocence may never match theirs.

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Exact Words of a Spam Subject Header Received February 25, 2005

swizzle,
be careful using
Zydone
after smoking weed

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

 

I'm hyp-mo-tized by what you can find on the internet, how you can enflesh old ghosts. And though you can't see the most important thing about them - the state of their soul - you might be able to tell if they're married, where they live, perhaps their profession.

My 4th grade (Catholic school) teacher is now a massage therapist who signed a letter supporting a "woman Roman Catholic priest" (there's one for your oxymoron collection). She's also involved with a far left group called Gamaliel Foundation. She came of age during the '60s and is, like all of us, a creature of her time.

Another ghost was a girl I dated briefly in college who is now married to a guy with an Italian-sounding name. They live in Deerfield, Il, not far from Chicago, in a modest, sub-1000 square foot home.

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The desire to set a good example is perhaps not the best motivator for holiness. I'm always trundling along hoping to find my way to proper motivations. But I can't say that it doesn't spur me spiritually when I see a challenge ahead such as that of my soon-to-be sister-in-law, who calls herself a "recovering Catholic", pro-gay marriage, liberal, etc... A different sort of Christian, but apparently a believer. And the rub is that she probably has something to teach me - surely galling because I have too much pride. My sense is that I have to get in better shape spiritually if I'm to have any positive impact on my soon-to-be sister-in-law.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

 

Smockmama serves a fragrant reminisce: "as memory serves, my girlhood pretty much sucked, but the day my third grade teacher, mrs. ewing, presented me with the 'most loving' award was pretty cool. i asked her if i could go home with her and she just laughed this beautiful laugh. i wonder to this day if she had any idea that my request was sincere."

I had a crush on my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. H-. It was during a time when Secrets-Could-Not-Be-Told, in a land where pride was everything and the only thing to fear was cooties itself.

I was outed by a classmate at the lunchtable. I was never given to displays of anger, but I exploded and pounded that pint of chocolate milk (this was the pre-2% days I might add) against the table, causing it to splash everyone within a few yards. I stomped out of the cafeteria leaving a lunch uneaten, something that has never happened before or since.

I had promised to dedicate my first book to Mrs. H- but it was never the same between us. The anti-tank defenses went up; I would not give any classmate the satisfaction of finding that their truth was indeed truth.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

 

I know Hillary Clinton is shameless opportunist and that her "come to Jesus" moment regarding abortion mostly likely comes not from conviction but from a desire to appeal to Red Staters, but gosh darn it I can't help but like that she is at least mouthing the words. Doesn't mean I'll ever vote for her but the fact that she "gets it" - i.e. gets that the '04 election was in part about the fact that Americans didn't want to be led by a president who seemed to have no compunction about killing unborn children - is somehow impressive.

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I tell myself I watch COPS as an exercise in seeing the image and likeness of God in folks where He is ...shall we say...obscured greatly.

Of course that sounds like the Baptist lady saying she's taking her whiskey for medicinal reasons only...

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Psalm 22 is unsurpassingly beautiful, so beautiful I try not to read it too much else it lose its specialness. It is the meatiest of Psalms, a foreshadowing of the suffering savior and much more.

You who fear the LORD, praise him!...For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted.

Great consolation that God can look upon the ugly and not look away in horror.

Before him shall bow all who go down into the dust...

Was not Ash Wednesday's reading about those who would sit in ash? If we go down into the dust and sit in the ash then this prayer assures of our bowing before Him which enables our rising.

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