Wednesday, December 31, 2003

"On the seventh day of Christmas..."

"...my true love gave to me -- seven swans a-swimming."


The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments; and, lest we forget...

"What are they which are but seven?
Seven liberal arts hath God sent down
With divine skill man's soul to crown."

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

"On the sixth day of Christmas..."

"...my true love gave to me -- six geese a-laying."


The six days of creation

"What are they which are but six?
Six days to labor is not wrong,
For God himself did work so long."

Monday, December 29, 2003

Two cows walk into a bar...

First Cow: "I'm really freaked out about this whole mad cow disease."
Second Cow: "I'm not worried in the slightest."
First Cow: "But it's breaking out all over and they're slaughtering hundreds and thousands in Europe. How can you not be worried?"
Second Cow: "Well, it's not going to affect me. I'm a duck."
"On the fifth day of Christmas..."

"...my true love gave to me -- five gold rings."


The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace; as well as...

"What are they which are but five?
Five senses, like five kings, maintain
In every man a several reign."
"Holy Innocents, Batman!!!"

Today, Denzel Washington and I both turned 49 years old. The tributes from devoted fans have been pouring in -- for me, at least. Not sure about Denzel.

No, seriously, I got a lot of attention today. When you're birthday is right in the middle of Christmas and New Year's, people are too busy returning Xmas gifts and buying party hats to remember little things like that. I must have been living right during 2003, however, because (following a night of some great Latin dancing) I got treated to brunch, several phone calls, and e-mails, and a lovely candlelit dinner in my honor. Oh, and I went to see the movie Cold Mountain. The soundtrack was produced by T-Bone Burnett, who also did the same for Oh Brother Where Art Thou? This latest work also promises to be a sleeper hit among Americana music fans.

Thanks to all of you (and you know who you are, ladies) who remembered me today. And thank YOU, Mark Shea, for that witty, albeit semi-original, introductory title.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

"On the fourth day of Christmas..."

"...my true love gave to me -- four calling birds."


The Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

"What are they which are but four
Four sweet Evangelists there are,
Christ's birth, life, death which do declare."

Saturday, December 27, 2003

"On the third day of Christmas..."

"...my true love gave to me -- three French hens."


Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues; not to mention...

"What are they which are but three?
Three persons in the Trinity
Which make one God in unity."

Friday, December 26, 2003

"On the second day of Christmas..."

"...my true love gave to me -- two turtle doves."


The Old and New Testaments

"What are they which are by two?
Two testaments, the old and new,
We do acknowledge to be true."

Thursday, December 25, 2003

"On the first day of Christmas..."

"...my true love gave to me -- a partridge in a pear tree."


There are several theories as to the origins of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The conventional wisdom identifies it as a "catechism song," or a memory aid for children. It was said to be created in England during the time of persecution from 1558 to 1829, during which time Catholics in England were prohibited by law from any practice of their faith.

The "true love" mentioned in the song refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so..."

The other symbols have meanings of their own, and will be presented in the days to come. Be that as it may, this account has been in common circulation on the internet, but has been amended and otherwise challenged in recent years.

Others have pointed out that the words from this song first appeared in a book titled Mirth without Mischief, which came out in 1780 (or 1783) in England. The tune apparently dates back much further and came from France. That 1780 book describes "The Twelve Days of Christmas" as a "memory and forfeits game" played by children at that time. The leader recited the first verse, the next child recited the second verse, and this continued until someone missed his or her verse and had to pay some kind of penalty in the game. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" became popular at the "12th-night parties" that took place in the Christmas season.

Yet another possibility is that the song has been confused with, or is a variation of, another song entitled "A New Dial" (aka "In Those Twelve Days"), dating back to 1625 and assigning religious meanings to each of the twelve days of Christmas. In a manner somewhat similar to the memory-and-forfeits performance of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," the song "A New Dial" was recited in a question-and-answer format. This version is in turn, similar to a tune called out by night watchmen on their appointed rounds, giving a similar assigned meaning to the numbered hours.

Each verse of "A New Dial" will also be presented with the entry of its respective day.

In the meantime, a blessed Yule to all, and to all, a good night!

"What are they that are but one?
We have one God alone
In heaven above sits on His throne."

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Tablecloth

The following is a true story, and is presented here by yours truly to honor the Great Feast. This evening I will visit my son at the Italian restaurant where he works, to give him his presents. Tonight I will kneel before the altar of God at Old St Mary's Church in Washington, to assist at the Solemn High Latin Mass (Old Missal) at Midnight. The day itself will be a relatively quiet one, visiting friends in the area. And so, blessings to all who read this site, until we meet again. -- DLA

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.

They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc. And on Dec 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On Dec 19 a terrible tempest - a driving rainstorm - hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.

The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.

By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area. Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet.

"Pastor," she asked, "where did you get that tablecloth?" The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBEBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria. The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the tablecloth.

The woman explained that before the war she and her husband Were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. She was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again. The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the Pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn't leaving.

The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike? He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety, and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between. The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride.

They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.

Hodie Christus natus est...

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Christmas Novena: Day Seven

O EMMANUEL, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Isaiah 7:14; 33:22. Symbols: tablets of stone, Chalice and Host.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Christmas Novena: Day Six

O REX GENTIUM (O KING OF THE GENTILES) and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

Psalm 2:7-8, Ephesians 2:14-20. Symbols, Crown, scepter.
Warning to Brother (and Sister) Catholics:

If they implement THIS in my diocese, I'm leaving for the Orthodox Church.

Then again, it could never really happen.

Or could it?
Christmas Novena: Day Five

(Editor's Note: for those who missed it yesterday...)

O ORIENS (O RADIENT DAWN), brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Psalm 19:6-7. Symbol: rising sun.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Christmas Novena: Day Four

O CLAVIS DAVID (O KEY OF DAVID), and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Isaiah 22:22. Symbols: key; broken chains.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Christmas Novena: Day Three

O RADIX JESSE (O ROOT OF JESSE), who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not.

Isaiah 11:1-3. Symbol: vine or plant with flower (especially a rose).

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A Christmas Carol

NEIGHBOR:   "Hello, is this the FBI?"
FBI:       "Yes. What do you want?"
NEIGHBOR:   "I'm calling to report about my neighbor Billy Bob Smith! He is hiding marijuana inside his firewood."
FBI:       "Thank you very much for the call, sir."

The next day, the FBI agents descend on Billy Bob's house. They search the shed where the firewood is kept. Using axes, they bust open every piece of wood, but find no marijuana. They swore at Billy Bob and left.

The phone rings at Billy Bob's house.

NEIGHBOR:   "Hey, Billy Bob! Did the FBI come?"
BILLY BOB:     "Yeah!"
NEIGHBOR:   "Did they chop your firewood?"
BILLY BOB:     "Yep."
NEIGHBOR:   "Merry Christmas Buddy!"

"And God bless us, everyone."
Christmas Novena: Day Two

O ADONAI (O LORD AND RULER) of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.

Exodus 3:2, 20:1. Symbols: burning bush, stone tablets.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Christmas Novena: Day One

O SAPIENTIA (O WISDOM), who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Sirach 24:2; Wisdom 8:1. Symbols: oil lamp, open book.
The Wright Stuff

One hundred years ago today, on an oceanside dune at the shore of North Carolina, there occured the first flight in a heavier-than-air contraption. The Wright Brothers, William and Orville, were witnessed by three Coast Guardsmen from a nearby station, a young boy who scratched a living as a muskrat trapper, and a lumber salesman visiting from out of town.

The coin was tossed, and Orville won. At 10:30 in the morning, he took the controls of the Flyer, and lifted off the ground for twelve seconds and 120 feet. The event was photographed for posterity, if only by accident. One of the Coast Guardsmen had his hand on the trigger, and clenched his fist in his excitement at witnessing history. There were three more flights that day, the longest being piloted by Wilbur, and running for 59 seconds and 852 feet. But before the day was over, a sudden gust of wind flipped the parked machine over, damaging it beyond repair.

Today, an attempt was made to re-enact the event. Exact time, exact place, exact replica, not so exact results.

What was truly remarkable about these two men is that, while the best minds in the world were attempting time and again, on both sides of the Atlantic, to be the first to fly a heavier-than-air machine, the claim rightly goes to two small-time bicycle shop owners from Dayton, Ohio. Indeed, the Buckeye State has gone on to provide two other native sons as pioneers in the skies: John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth (not to mention the oldest, in all likelihood), and Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

Wilbur died in 1912, but Orville lived to see a demonstration of Chuck Yeager break the sound barrier in the X-1: "Wilbur would never have believed it, and neither would I."

Now, if we can just get to Mars in this century. Where's "the wright stuff" when you really need it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I missed my "Theology of the Body" class last night...

...but thanks to Jamie, the Gleeful Extremist, for keeping me up to date.
Mark the following date on your calendars:

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Monday, December 15, 2003

And now, for some really exciting news!

Somebody told me yesterday that they finally caught Saddam Hussein. That should give the news hacks something to hang onto crisis mode for the next two weeks. Go from CNN to MSNBC to Fox News, and it's like a talking-heads marathon.

Me? I'd rather watch reruns of The West Wing and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on Bravo.

Ohmigosh, what am I saying???

Meanwhile, in (thankfully) other news...

Twenty-three years ago today -- Monday, December 15, 1980 -- I began my career of public service, here in what is politely referred to as "the Nation's capital."

But today, I continue to enter a new chapter. I'm in training to (we can only hope) be eventually certified as a web/multimedia designer. I was trained in Dreamweaver a few weeks ago. That's the leading web-page design application. Today and tomorrow I'm being trained in Flash. That's the software that runs those little motion sequences on those fancy-pants websites.

Every year, I see more of the work that I previously did in print, being converted to the web. I'm also seeing a variety of personnel matters being handled online, where once I would have to go to the Personnel Office and get some clown to explain the forms to me.

I've already begun my Christmas shopping. That isn't saying much, of course. I get a few things for Paul, plus some tokens of appreciation for a select few friends who have been extra good this year -- to me, that is.

But I gotta tell ya, I'm draggin.' After a weekend of dancing and running around, even with sleeping till two in the afternoon yesterday, I'm still runnin' out of gas here. So I'll have to skip my Theology of the Body class tonight, and chill big-time at home. I'm behind in my video watching anyway. Plus there's phone calls to make, presents to wrap, and... I still have to read the Sunday edition of the Washington Post.

I don't know how I get it all done. Clean living? Fancy footwork? Beats the hell outa me.

Monday, December 08, 2003

MWBH on Hiatus...

...until about midweek. We got road trips, we got dancin,' not to mention some pre-festive preliminaries. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

"Just lookin' for a home..."

"Let me tell ya a story about a boll weevil
Now, some of you may not know,
But a boll weevil is an insect.
And he's found mostly where cotton grows.

"The farmer said to the boll weevil
I see you're on the square
Boll weevil said to the farmer
Say yep! My whole darn family's here
We gotta have a home, gotta have a home..."


(from The Boll Weevil Song, traditional)

Every morning, I walk the half-mile from my studio apartment in the basement of an Arlington home, toward the Metrorail station. Where once was a Seven-Eleven and a few run down commercial buildings, a luxury high-rise condominium complex is being built, joining a host of other new buildings in Arlington's up-and-coming "Orange Line" corridor. A one-bedroom unit will cost about $200,000 -- equal to the current value of the three-bedroom townhouse I once owned a few miles west of the Beltway. I console myself with the knowledge, that the same small unit would cost roughly three times as much in midtown Manhattan.

In a recent issue of Newsweek, columnist Anna Quindlen reports from that same locality, where we hear from one Julia Erickson, executive director of City Harvest, which delivers food to the needy: "Look at the Rescue Mission on Lafayette Street. They used to feed single men, often substance abusers, homeless. Now you go in and there are bike messengers, clerks, deli workers, dishwashers, people who work on cleaning crews. Soup kitchens have been buying booster seats and highchairs. You never used to see young kids at soup kitchens."

This is the relatively new phenomenon, those who are out on the street for want of one paycheck. Despite the growing population of Northern Virginia in need of low- to moderate-income housing, much of it is being torn down in favor of the high-priced variety.

Quindlen goes on: "Even if you’ve never been to the Rescue Mission, all the evidence for this is in a damning new book called The Betrayal of Work by Beth Shulman, a book that should be required reading for every presidential candidate and member of Congress. According to Shulman, even in the go-go '90s one out of every four American workers made less than $8.70 an hour, an income equal to the government's poverty level for a family of four. Many, if not most, of these workers have no health care, sick pay or retirement provisions."

I recently confronted a candidate for the County Board of Supervisors on this very subject, asking him: "Where are our maids going to live?" We cannot blame it entirely on "market forces" and all that. From 1950 to 2000, the average American home doubled in square footage, and had half as many occupants. It is the fruit of consumerist excess. The flower-power generation that was going to "give peace a chance" wants as big a piece of the chance as they can get.

How many of us need both a living room and a family room? Can any parent bear the thought of their children sharing a bedroom, at the risk of learning to get along? Does anyone remember how families would gather in the kitchen, once the place of the hearth, the center of the home? Why not choose to eat there as well? Speaking for myself, if I had an eat-in kitchen and a formal dining room, I would convert the latter to a library for all my books. I'd have the best overhead lighting already available, and I'd gain an extra bedroom. I'd have a wooden floor in the living room, where I would pull back the furniture for house concerts and dances. That's what a living room is for -- you know, LIVING!

In his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), Pope Leo XIII reminded us that work was created for man, not man for work. Those few at the helm of industry and commerce (to say nothing of the political arena) need to be reminded at every turn, that theirs is a temporary fortune, one that they cannot take with them.

Until then, where will their maids live?
Out of the Mouths of Babes: Nudity

(Note: This is the first of an occasional series, consisting of related anecdotes passed along the information highway.)

I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, "Mom! That lady isn't wearing a seat belt!"

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

This just in...

I have updated the entry for November 22, entitled Between Heaven and Hell.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

From our bulging "Grahmann Does Dallas" file...
"I read the news today, oh boy..."

From the wires of the Associated Press, Reuters, and other unmentionable sources:

• A man from New York state, recognized as the oldest man in America, celebrated his 113th birthday on Monday. Fred Hale Sr greeted the day in quiet fashion with four generations of descendants at his side.

• US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has won this year's "Foot in Mouth" award for the most baffling statement by a public figure. Britain's Plain English Campaign announced the honors Tuesday, giving runner-up to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The top prize went to Rumsfeld for the following at a press briefing on Iraq: "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns, there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know."

"How do you keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen..." Paris Hilton, the young, blond, nubile hotel heiress who has been getting almost as much press attention as Michael Jackson, if for reasons far less apparent, will accompany the equally spoiled brat Nicole Richie, in living with an Arkansas farm family on the latest (desparate) attempt by Fox to cash in on the "reality show" craze. It's a show called, ironically, "The Simple Life."

Finally, and with the farthest reaching implications:

• After over a quarter-century of enthusiasts of modern square dancing (the systematically homogenized variety where they belong to clubs and wear obnoxious western outfits, not to be confused with the traditional genre with regional variations intact) getting one state after another to make square dancing their state folk dance, they've finally hit a snag -- where else, but in Pennsylvania, where as everybody knows, polka reigns supreme. The vote in the state legislature has been put on hold these last two weeks, due to fears that such an effort would seem trivial. (Trivial? HAH!! Accordion players, TO THE RAMPARTS!!!)

Friday, November 28, 2003

"It's beginning to look a lot like..."

...and wasting no time either. This is the day that retail workers know as "Black Friday." They are committed to a work schedule of twelve hours or more for today, and an increased number of hours from now until the end of the calendar year. One tells me that, after three years of working in a major department store, workers qualify for two weeks paid vacation. In return for their loyal service, their managers make life just a little more difficult for them. Eventually, those in charge would settle for an underpaid, underqualified, underinformed workforce.

What a bunch of pigs!!! Makes me glad I get most of my clothing at thrift stores. (Yes, even my suits.)

There are other views of this day as well, as found in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer...

"For the past decade, a group of countercultural 'burned-out lefties' have been trying to change that to 'Buy Nothing Day.' ...On a day known for holiday sales and shoppers jostling each other for the best bargains, the folks at Adbusters Media Foundation hope you'll tuck your wallet away and abstain..."

Gotta love those burned-out lefties, dontcha, Mark?
Giving Thanks

It has been relatively quiet on the streets of Washington since the end of the evening rush on Wednesday. If ever there was a day to get the hell outa Dodge, it is this one. But I stayed, and so my day was relatively quiet as well. I had coffee and a "nosh" with a friend this morning, spent the afternoon at home doing housework and fixing a modest holiday dinner (turkey slices with gravy over rice and vegetables, prepared in the microwave, and joined by a glass of zinfendel), and spent the evening with another friend watching a favorite movie on video. Fortunately, the festivities have yet to end, and the weekend will call for more dancing. Deo gratias...

"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies...

"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving. And I recommend to them... that they fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

"Done at the City of Washington, this 3d day of October, in the year of our Lord 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."


-- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope,
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing;
Wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing;
There is yet faith;
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

T S Eliot, from Four Quarters

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Between Heaven and Hell

Also on this day, two other men passed from this life, all within a few hours of the late President; Audous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, and C S Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and numerous other books, many about his Christian faith.

Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, wrote a play about the three of them, imagining them meeting on the road to heaven. He called it Between Heaven & Hell.

The page at Amazon devoted to this book allows the viewer to see a few sample pages of the work. Concerning it, Rob Taylor of Matthews NC writes:

"Much of the fictional discussion between these three characters revolves around their own writings although Kreeft employs a bit of literary license for the sake of argument. The fact that Kreeft is a Catholic doesn't affect the content of this book since the argument is essentially Lewis' straight, or 'mere' Christianity. The position of JFK is that of a humanistic Christian in the sense of emphasizing 'horizontal' social activity rather than 'vertical' religious experience...religion without revelation. Kennedy portrays his view of Christ as that of a man become god. Huxley doesn't get the air time that Lewis and JFK get, but his contribution is significant. He represents the eastern pantheist position and reinterprets Christianity as a form of the universal philosophy of pantheism. In this view, Jesus was one of the great sages of history along with Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, Mohammed and the rest. Employing the Socratic method of question and answer, Kreeft slowly but surely uses Lewis' arguments to refute the views of Jesus being a lunatic, liar or just a great moral teacher. Once this is done, He argues that Jesus was God in the flesh, just as He claimed to be. Approximately the last third of the book focuses on the reliability of the gospel accounts which record the claims of Christ."

I always said that playing Jack Lewis in a theatric production is the only reason I would ever shave my beard. So here I sit, waiting for my curtain call. Stay tuned...
Forty years ago...

...I was in the third grade. We had just come in from recess. Our teacher, Mrs Gilligan, was late getting back to us. Suddenly she comes rushing in to tell us that President Kennedy had just been shot while he was in Dallas. The teachers were all watching the news on the television in the faculty room, and she didn't know much more than that. She told us she was going back to find out more.

We were left, astonished, to deal with it on our own. But let's back up a bit...

It helps to appreciate the fact that, whatever you thought of Jack Kennedy, his being a Catholic was a really big thing. In those days, depending on where you lived, you knew you were different. I lived in a town founded by the Methodist, inundated by Baptists, among others, and knew what it was to be called a "Catlicker," although most of the kids left it alone. Still, when Mom sat us kids down in those days to warn us about not talking to strangers, she tagged on another warning about discussing religion with our non-Catholic playmates.

Of course, that Kennedy was Catholic did not impress my parents much. Seeing them coming through the hall from the gym, at the public school where I attended kindergarten, I asked them who they voted for. Nixon, they told me. You didn't vote for Kennedy? But, he's... Catholic, and Nixon's not!

And yet, in our house, I would learn the low-down soon enough. To be a "Taft Republican" (as opposed to the Ivy League variety) was to believe that it was the War, not Roosevelt, who got us out of the Depression, and that Hoover would have enacted many of the ideas that became part of the "New Deal," were it not for a Democratic-controlled Congress blocking his way.

Not only that, as I was to learn later, Jack Kennedy was already known for leading a life that was less than exemplary. Even as a married man, he still had a way with the ladies. Like father, like son, they would say. He had also been quick to disavow his Catholicism as an overriding influence in policymaking. So the precedent was set, where character values could be put aside if you were Catholic, if it meant getting elected. Go figure...

In the weeks that followed his death, we mourned with the rest of the Nation. We saw the funeral, and our Protestant neighbors got to see an authentic Catholic ritual -- the one we called "the Mass" -- right on television. Jack Kennedy was hailed as a "President and Marytr," and a brother Knight of Columbus.

Years later, when I lived in Georgetown in the early 1990s, people still talked of how Senator Jack would walk from his home at 3308 N Street, down to Martin's Tavern at the corner of N and Wisconson, and meet a different blond every night. Seems he had a thing for blondes. (Duh!) Amidst the conspiracy theories and the tumult that followed in the 1960s, one wonders what the world would have been like had he lived.

In all likelihood, the war in Vietnam would have been escalated just the same, and with Jack's reelection assured, the forces in society and popular culture would have tainted him no less than they did the less dashing and charismatic Lyndon Johnson. History has not always been kind to the memory of President Kennedy, but had he lived, it is my opinion that the decisions that made Johnson so unpopular would have had a similar effect on him.

Still, Jack Kennedy changed the face of American politics. His campaign was one more step toward style at the expense of substance, as anyone comparing the effects of the televised debates with those on the radio would have discerned. His brother Bobby would be assassinated as well, only adding to the legacy of tragedy that plauged this family. His other brother Edward would change the way indiscretions of public figures were reported, or not. People in other countries are astonished at the significance we place upon occasional misbehavior by our Nation's leaders, whether it be in matters of sex, or blind ambition. But before Edward, there were no dead bodies to cover up. And so, Vince Foster notwithstanding, no American politician today is safe from the glare of the media spotlight. (Well, almost none.)

We may never see another Kennedy in the White House. But those of us who are old enough to remember where we were on this day in 1963, will continue to look at the world in terms of before -- and after.

Friday, November 21, 2003

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

From the wires of the Associated Press, and other unmentionable sources:

• Next time, keep the change! In East St Louis, IL, a man and his pay phone were rushed to the hospital when his finger got stuck in the coin return slot. In the ER, Emanuel Fleming was administered painkillers while they successfully pried his middle finger loose using a wooden device and a lubricant. Seems Fleming tried to call his wife and the line was busy. The entire episode took three hours. All this... over fifty cents.

• He knows when you've been bad or good -- and he's got your number. At a mall in Kalamazoo MI, Santa's helpers will hand out pagers that alert parents and their kiddies when it's their turn to sit on Santa's knee. No waiting in line for up to two hours for these little runts, as had been done in the past. Now let's see if they can wait at least until the day after Thanksgiving.

• What this world really needs is.. another cult film. The other night, on the Lifetime cable channel, they showed a made-for-TV movie about the life of Mary Kay, the cosmetic queen. The role of the makeup maven was played by Shirley MacLaine.

• They're putting the Easy into the Big Easy. As if it were not already, New Orleans is on its way to becoming the Las Vegas of the South. A new law will allow visitors from out of state to get married there without the required three-day waiting period. What's more, is that the city's marriage licensing office is now also open on weekends. Lovebirds can fly in Friday night, get a license on Saturday, spend a honeymoon in New Orleans, and return to civilization -- as a married couple.

• Finally, a camera with its own flash. Police in Columbus OH may have caught a man who is accused of sneaking up on women wearing nothing but a baseball cap and photographing their expressions.

• You like me, you really like me -- right??? Monica Lewinsky was quoted about how, when she goes on a date, wants the complete attention of her companion: "I want to shake them and say, 'C'mon, just like me. Do what I say.'"

It was Louie Armstong who said it best: "Some people don't know, and you just can't tell 'em."
You know people are desparate when...

...they make major headlines out of an over-indulged pop star being brought in for being a dirty old man. Eric Johnson of Catholic Light said it best:

"Greedy retirees are poised to extort $40 billion a year from working American families, using the government as the muscle man. That's a story. Radical Islamist terrorists are murdering innocent people in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iraq. That's a story. Yet what do the watchdogs in the press think is the most important story right now? A freakish pop star is going to be arrested for being a pervert."

Our official position here at MWBH is this: who gives a rat's @$$??? The rest of you couch potatoes who hang on every word spewed by Oprah and Jerry and every Tom Dick and Harry -- get a @#$%ing life!!!

Now... back to some real news. Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 20, 2003

A Marine Writes Home

USMC Recruit Depot
San Diego CA
1 April 2003

Dear Ma and Pa:

I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minchby a mile. Tell them to join up quick before maybe all of the places are filled. I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but am getting so I like to sleep late.

Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water.

Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food. But tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon, when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much. We go on "route" marches, which the Platoon Sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it is not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice, but awful flat.

The Sergeant is like a schoolteacher. He nags some. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and Colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move. And it ain't shooting at you, like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. He joined up the same time as me. But I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and weighs near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,

Gail

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Body Work Revisited

Paul Evdokimov (1902-1970) was a noted french Orthodox theologian whose works are studied by persons interested in Orthodox Christianity. He has been known as "a theological bridge between East and West," since he brings patristic insights to bear upon the present day situations. Even after his death, his books are still sold throughout the world. Unfortunately, most of what is written about him is in French.

Last night I attended the second night of my "Theology of the Body" class. When I got home, I pulled two books off the "Eastern Christian Studies" shelf of my library, to find two of his works that had been sitting there, waiting for the right time to read them.

The Sacrament of Love reflects on marriage in light of the Orthodox tradition. As is believed by Catholics, the union of man and woman in marriage is a relationship of persons united in love, as is seen in its perfection in the case of God in the Trinity. Evdokimov elaborates on the fruitfullness of this love -- not only as expressed through the procreation of children, but through other works such as hospitality, service, or through a common creation. He goes on to view love as manifest in monastic and non-monastic celibacy.

In his more daring work, Woman and the Salvation of the World, Evdokimov challenges contemporary Christianity to face up to the current phenomenon, of the dominance of the male both in the Church and in the world, asserting this as the root of many evils in the modern world. Not unlike John Paul II in his Theology of the Body, Evdokimov proposes a rediscovery of an authentic Christian anthropology, that sees male and female as complementary, yet with distinct charisms and vocations.

How to bring this all to bear in real life, is a subject for another day. After all, I just got started on all this. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 17, 2003

While I was out...

I have just discovered that it's been nearly two weeks since I've made an entry. I was under the weather for part of that time. It's also that time of year that I'm reminded of the holidays approaching. Thankfully, this year has found me in a better disposition than in the previous two years. Must be that "9/11" thing wearing off too. In the meantime...

My son Paul has his own weblog now, entitled Paul's Days and Nights. It's what you might expect of a talented young man who is a little too immersed in the popular culture. But he has his moments. Hopefully most of them will make it here. Besides, the kid still cracks me up.

I went to see Donna The Buffalo in concert (with dance) last Friday night. The lovely voice and instrumental talent of Tara Nevins was noticably absent, as she was out sick. But guitarist Jeb Peryear, the other mainstay of the group, carried on the long-standing tradition of "the show must go on." He did a great job, and everybody loved him and the band for it.

My dance lessons with Tom and Debra have continued. I spent the previous weekend at a workshop watching Savoy Ballroom original Frankie Manning show his stuff. At 89 years of age, he's still got game. My dance experience has expanded of late, and has been more confined to within the Capital Beltway. "Bal'mer" can get along fine without me some weekends. At least for now.

Saturday I assisted at a Solemn Latin High Mass. Some Navy lieutenant was getting married. He and the bride made a lovely couple alright. It was moving to see them, so young and hopeful, with absolutely no idea of what they were getting into. But doing it anyway. Meanwhile, two of the assisting priests were from the Pittsburgh Oratory, where another St Blog's parishioner is known to hang out.

Tonight I continue with the "Theology of the Body" class. Then I'll go home. I'm thinking maybe I won't go to Connecticut for Thanksgiving this year after all. Not just because I may end up passing on the dance weekend in Rochester, but it seems I have enough to do right here in town. With enough people gone, maybe the traffic won't be so bad.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Body Work

I started a class last night, to study John Paul II's Theology of the Body. It will meet at the Catholic Information Center every other Monday. It was a nice group of about twenty people, led by a woman who took me for a brother or a theology student. It can happen.

People like to talk about it, but few know what it is exactly. Here's the short explanation:

"The theology of the body is Pope John Paul II's integrated vision of the human person, body, soul and spirit. He tells us how the physical human body has a specific meaning and how it shows us the answers to basic questions of life such as: Is there a real purpose to life and if so, what is it? Why were we created male and female - and does it really matter if you're one sex or another? Why were man and woman called to communion from the beginning and what does the marital union of a man and woman say to us about God and his plan for our lives? What is the purpose of the married and celibate vocations? What exactly is love? Is it truly possible to be pure of heart? All of these questions and many more are answered in Pope John Paul II's 129 Wednesday audiences which were given between the years 1979 and 1984. His reflections are based on Scripture (especially the Gospels, St. Paul and the Book of Genesis) and contain a vision of the human person truly worthy of man. They discuss who man was in the beginning, who he is now, after sin, and who he will be in the age to come. He then applies this understanding to the vocations of marriage and celibacy for the Kingdom."

The rest can be found at the website linked with the above quotation. Of particular interest to me is a website dedicated to his 1960 book Love and Responsibility. I hope to study that work as well. Someday.

But for now, the class has been most promising. It is like food to a starving man, to be among those who are "on the same page," as it were, with so many things. You connect with those who are seekers like yourself, and next thing you know, it is as if you have known each other for much longer. I belong here alright.

Meanwhile, my cousin and his wife in Connecticut had a little boy yesterday, their second. I called today, and talked to her mother. I'm hoping to be up that way on Thanksgiving. I'll be on the road to Rochester, to visit where I'd been before.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Maria Goretti Kicks @$$ in Philly

One of the most well-known saints among Catholic schoolchildren is Maria Goretti, a young teenager who chose death by stabbing over giving in to the passions of a local hired hand. While in prison, she appeared to him with a garland of roses, one for each stab wound, and forgave him. He later entered religious life, and was present in Rome for her canonization.

Closer to the present, on the wires of the Associated Press, is what may be an unusual example of her intercession.

In Philadelphia (a city already well-established by this writer as a haven for nice Catholic girls of all ages), a man with a habit of exposing himself in public was chased down by a group of young ladies from the nearby St Maria Goretti High School for Girls. They caught up with him, kicked him and otherwise knocked him around, then subdued him until the police arrived. After being treated at the hospital for his injuries, authorities expect him to face a number of criminal charges.

St Maria Goretti, ora pro nobis. You go, grrrl!!!

Friday, October 31, 2003

Going "Bump" in the Night

My son Paul has had a thing for scary stories ever since he was a wee lad.

One year, at a parish retreat, he was seen reading the novel Jurassic Park with great interest. This was no small task for the average nine-year old boy (which is why it helps that Paul is above average). Upon being alerted to this by an astonished adult, I replied, matter-of-factly: "So? He's already seen the movie."

Maybe it was his mother's influence, because it certainly wasn't mine. Her affiliation with the Byzantine Rite has been passed on to Paul, where the emphasis on mystery rules out the Thomistic rationalism common to Western spirituality. In addition, her grandparents came to this country from Slovakia, one of a number of places in the world where there exists a fine line between Catholic devotionalism and occultic superstition. When we were married, our observance of Halloween was highlighted by the Annual Reading of the Tarot. (She had an aunt who did it for a living. Go figure.)

She has passed on this hallowed (???) tradition to Paul -- over my objections, obviously.

Not because I do not take the use of such powers seriously, but precisely because I do. As a Catholic, one accepts a belief in the forces beyond those of this world, both for good and for evil. Those tools which call upon the powers beyond nature, which do not make their true intentions known, shall be usurped by those entities who will respond as they will, usually to our peril. After all, nature abhors a vacuum -- as does supernature. And as Thomas Aquinas teaches us, evil -- malum -- is nihil. It is nothing. God is existence itself, for as he told Moses, "I am who am." Thus evil is nothingness, confronting which is to come face-to-face with the ultimate horror. Hence the identity of such forces with darkness, to be conquered by the impending dawn.

On the bright side, Paul's fascination with the otherworldly has made him a devoted follower of the TV series The X-Files, which followed two FBI agents in their investigation of cases unexplained by natural causes. This has led him to the study of the Church's history of her battle with the Evil One, including cases of demonic possession and exorcism.

He could probably use a really good scare, which is why I hope someday to introduce him to an exorcist. Such an illuminating discussion could enhance his awareness of the reality of evil in the world, and how Mother Church equips us to do battle with it.

But for tonight, somewhere in Front Royal, Virginia, at a farmhouse which has since lost its acreage, a family of Catholic homeschoolers will have a special Halloween party, where guests will come dressed as saints, their identity to be guessed by the others. (One year I went as the anonymous fourteenth century mystic who authored The Cloud of Unknowing. They never guessed who I was. Imagine that.)

Closer to home, I will partake of that phenomenon of Catholic culture known as (yes, Mr Shea, you guessed it) zydeco dancing. Maybe I'll wear the ninja costume, maybe not. Only my eyes will show. When I last wore it, the eyes were enough to give me away, to those who knew me for only a few months.

Or maybe I'll go as myself -- again.

In the meantime, Helen Hull Hitchcock provides us with a beautiful analysis of the feast in question.

And with that, a Blessed All Hallows Eve to all, and to all... let's be careful out there, eh?

(My acknowledgements to the Rev Franklin McAfee, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, whose writings contributed to this entry.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Attention Ladies: This year's "Men Are Pigs" Award goes to...

...this guy. But don't take my word for it. Both Dom Bettinelli and Victor Lams (in a piece appropriately named "White Trash," a classic display of foot-in-mouth disease on live television) explain it all for you.

Monday, October 27, 2003

"Rainy days and Mondays..."

The weather in DC is lousy this afternoon. From outside the window of my office, everything is gray. Even the many images of Old Glory waving atop the official buildings lose their luster. It that isn't bad enough, I forgot my umbrella.

I only went dancing on Friday night. An old friend was in town from Cleveland for a convention, and I showed her around. She's been swing dancing since she was about three (according to her), so she felt right at home. Saturday was spent at a kids' birthday party (long story on that one), and Sunday was a quiet evening with friends.

Tomorrow I have a medical appointment, and Wednesday morning I head out to Front Royal for a meeting. I'm looking forward to Halloween, which I expect to celebrate appropriately.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Requiem

My pastor died earlier this week. He will be buried today.

He entered the hospital a few weeks ago, to be treated for colon cancer. Sadly, his kidney and liver failed, and there was no turning back. The vigil was last night at the church. I went for the viewing, quietly praying the Responsory for the Dead in Latin as I walked up the aisle. ("Remember not my sins, O Lord, when you come to judge the world by fire...") I left before the vigil began.

I wish I could tell you of him as my spiritual father. But many of us in my parish, in the year or so he was there, found it hard to get close to him. He was an Irish "brick and mortar" priest of the old school, adept at administration and property management. Much of the growth of our diocese will be attributed to his business acumen. In public, he was quick with his Irish wit. But on a more personal level, he could be cold, even downright insensitive. Many in the chancery office wept openly upon hearing of his passing. Obviously he was loved by some. But many of us never had the chance to love him -- as a priest, as a father, as a man.

That is the saddest thing about his parting from this life. There was not enough time.

And I wonder what will happen next. For now, his young curate is administrator pro tem, until a pastor is chosen. We have had two pastors in a row, who were not known for their interpersonal skills. Our departed priest wrote in the bulletin, of how many were alienated from the parish before he came, and he wanted to bring them back.

Given half a chance, I would have told him. But now, I will pray for him. For if we believe in a life after this one, and in the reality of divine judgement, there can be no doubt of his awareness of his human failings, as will be the case with all of us. From there, a new chapter will be written, and life will begin anew. A grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies. From the ground a new harvest springs. And with the seasons, hope springs eternal.

So says Christ Himself in the gospel. So says the falling leaves.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

This legend should be easy to... swallow!

Today, the Roman Church commemorates the feast of St John of Capistran. Born in the Abruzzi region of Italy in 1386, he went on to law school in Perugia, where he later served as governor. After becoming a Franciscan priest, he preached throughout Europe against the heresies of the day, including Islam. He died in Villach, Austria, in 1456.

But wait, this gets better.

In California, the Spaniards named a mission after him. San Juan Capistrano is the site where thousands of swallows return from vacationing in Argentina on the feast of Saint Joseph, March 19. Their arrival is still met with a grand local celebration. After leaving their mark (ahem!) on cars all over town, they leave on the same day every year, which is today.

(Personally, I find this story to be quite charming, don't you?)

Monday, October 20, 2003

While I was out...

(Sure, I've got lots of other news. But it can wait...)

Twenty-five years ago this month, the honorary clergy of the church of Rome (otherwise known as the College of Cardinals), in a tradition dating back two thousand years, elected one of their members as Bishop of Rome (otherwise known as "Pontifex Maximus," the Supreme Pontiff, or the Pope). In this case, it was a young man from Poland named Karol Wojtyla, who took the name John Paul II. He took the position first held by Saint Peter, the fisherman.

But to many of his friends, he is still known as "Lolek." That is to say, "Charlie," or "Chuck."

He is an outdoorsman, a philosopher, a playwright, an actor. Most of all, he is a pastor, unlike most of his predecessors in modern times, who rose through the ranks of the Vatican diplomatic service or other parts of the Roman bureaucracy. He barely escaped from the war with his life, where he worked underground to preserve the culture of his homeland, help Jews to escape, and to prepare for the priesthood.

He is a relentless traveler, who draws huge crowds everywhere in the world. They come, they listen, they don't always obey. But they listen, and they love him.

Personally, I never did care for the additions to the rosary, the so-called "Luminous Mysteries." The rosary has fifteen decades for a reason, to coincide with the 150 psalms, hence the traditional title of "Our Lady's Psalter." Yes, they were "proposed" as options. But the Catholic publishing world jumped on it. And while there have always been variations to the traditional rosary (the Francisan crown with seven decades for the seven joys of Mary, for example), the "new mysteries" will be passed off as a regular part of the Rosary, which it is not. Hopefully, it is a fad that will pass, like the proposal a few years back to change the Stations of the Cross. (Don't remember them, do ya? My point exactly.)

Then there's that part about kissing the Koran. If there was a reason within the bounds of Catholic fidelity for this sign of respect, it would have been lost too easily on damn near anybody seeing the picture. His writings are highly philosophical, and prone to some ambiguity. But that's to be expected, and can provide for further discussion. A picture tends to say what it says and that's it. While there is some element of truth in all major religions, to be a Catholic is to claim to have the Truth. Have these gestures been returned by others? Are there other ways to reach out to those of other faiths (if only to prevent us all from killing each other in the name of God), without compromising our own? Is that what has happened?

But other than that, I love this man. He is the right man in the right place at the right time. He is far from perfect, but who of us is? He has at times lost control of the bureaucracy around him, but when has it ever really been under control? I'll join the crowds in wishing him "sto lot" -- one hundred years.

John Paul Two, we love you!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

"Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the LORD."

The doctors say this woman is in a vegatative state. Those who know Terri, know that she is alert, and is aware of what is going to happen to her. There, but for the grace of God, goes all of the generation that wrought this upon humanity. To starve someone to death, simply for the "crime" of being an inconvenience, is a sin that cries to heaven.

This generation shall live to see justice paid in full. Be afraid...

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Columbus Day Plus One

Here is a poetic tribute to Cristoforo Colon, penned by James Kilgore. Thanks to Mark Sullivan, the Irish Elk, for the tipoff:

"Patron saint of everyone who misses the turnoff and winds up in Cleveland."

Friday, October 10, 2003

Dateline Chicago: Andrew Greeley Hits Nail On Biretta!!!

Recently, many of the priests in the Arlington Diocese signed a statement affirming priestly celibacy, in response to those pinheads in Milwaukee who did the opposite. Anyway, back in Arlington, the guys showed the letter to Bishop Loverde, who said, hey, I wanna sign this too. Greeley, in one of his enlightened moments (and traditional Catholics should know that he has quite a few of them) defends priestly celibacy in a recent piece in the Chicago Sun-Times.

But more than that, he asks priests some hard questions about themselves.

You know, the kinds of questions they would be asked... if they had wives!

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Show me the money!
The Real Deal: Why Modern Church Music Stinks

Those young whipper-snappers over at Catholic Light think they know it all, when it comes to explaining why so much of contemporary Catholic hymnody really bites the Big Biretta. It about time they heard from someone who actually does know.

No... not me, THIS guy:

"[S]ome of the merits of this [contemporary] music have been thoroughly discussed in various publications, but such discussion always focuses on the words. A much more central issue, especially in regard to the long-term utility and value of the music, is the musical style itself...

"Lively syncopations, such as are found in 'Blest Be the Lord' and 'Though the Mountains May Fall,' both by Dan Schutte, are exactly the sort of subtle rythmic device a singer would like to have ornamenting a basic melodic shape. Both of these songs can be very exciting pieces when performed with a well-trained group and perhaps a small group of singers. Whenever I have heard them sung by a congregation, however, the syncopations, so crucial to the character of these songs, simply disappear. The congregation cannot execute them. The offbeats are moved back to the strong beats of the measures, and the rhythm of the phrase is squared off like a nursery rhyme...

"But why aren't traditional hymns such as 'Now Thank We All Our God' or 'The Church's One Foundation' also dull in the same way? Surely the rythyms of those melodies could hardly be plainer; every note is one beat, except at the ends of phrases. But the traditional style has two stylistic weapons missing from the popular arsenal. One is a much faster rate of chord changes. Yes, every note is one beat, but each of those notes is accompanied by a new chord. Furthermore, the chords are composed so that they not only make a directed, active harmonic progression, but make three additional melodies (the alto, tenor and bass) that work in counterpoint to the melody sung by the congregation. This complex texture and fast-moving harmony give a marvelous vitality and force that offests the static rhythm of the tune. Yet the whole business is easy to sing!"


The above is excerpted from an article entitled "An Apology for the Hymn," which appeared in the May 23, 1987 issue of America magazine. Its author is Joseph P Swain, listed as assistant professor of music at Colgate University and choir director at St Mary's Church in Hamilton NY.

Any questions?
It's National "Pick On Mother Teresa" Week!

Some twit passing herself off as a journalist is questioning the motives of Mother Teresa's charitable works:

"By urging paupers to accept Jesus in exchange for food, Mother Teresa misled thousands of Kolkata residents into believing that their lives would improve through conversion to Christianity."

For the record, The Missionary Sisters of Charity have never tried to convert those in need, by any means other than their example. The dying on the streets of Calcutta (indeed, the world over) are taken in for care, so that they may pass from this life knowing that they are loved. It matters not if they are Christian or Hindu or Buddhist or whatever. They are made in God's image. That was good enough for Mother. That's good enough for me.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

All's Fair In Love And War: A Betty and Veronica Update

Readers of MWBH may remember an entry of May 30, "Bullies and Empty Hands" concerning my near-altercation with some guy in a bar. I was convinced that my old "friend" Betty had put him up to it.

Shortly after that, I just had to stick my neck out, and I asked Veronica what she remembered of the incident. She responded with an impassioned defense of her friend: "[Betty] is a bright, rational woman and I have the utmost confidence that she will make the right choice for her in the end so I have absolutely no reason to be concerned."

Lately, Betty has been warming up to "Claude," who was for a long time Veronica's boyfriend -- until now, anyway. It has been confided to me that Veronica is deeply hurt by her friend Betty's intrusion on her territory, that Claude's reputation as a drunken lout preceeds him, and that Betty's conduct is starting to catch up with her. I'll believe it when Betty is too ashamed to show her face in public. For now, that honor has fallen upon Veronica.

As for Claude, he wouldn't know the difference. Then again, neither does anyone else, from what I can tell.

There must have been a time when a certain code of civility prevailed, even among fair-weather friends. Our comfort level would forbid an abdication of the rules of fair play among our peers. Such decorum would allow one to feel at ease when letting one's guard down. After all, it is just such moments when the unscrupulous can take undue advantage, at our expense. But that was before the days of "doing your own thing," and being "non-judgemental."

But refusing to make a judgement is, in fact, a judgement in and of itself. It is saying that whatever is not being judged is not worthy of a judgement. It must therefore be acceptable.

This works for a lot of people, until it happens to them. Then it stops working. (Ooops!) Sounds like a judgement to me!

It was nearly a quarter-century ago, that a mother whose little girl was injured by a drunk driver decided, that all the jokes in the world about getting wasted weren't so funny anymore, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving was established. Eventually, we learn that there are more important things in life than keeping the party going.

But most important of all, I simply must find a better class of people to hang with!
While I was away...

Sunday was spent in the Fells Point section of Baltimore, at an outdoor street festival, dancing zydeco in the afternoon, and the merangue in the early evening. Variety is the spice of life, I always say.

Monday was the day my son Paul turned eighteen. I'm not sure the reality of the changes have hit home with him yet, despite my attempts at preparing him. It's been hard enough getting it through to his mother. But I had my own issues that day, because on that day and...

Tuesday, I was in a training class to learn Dreamweaver, the leading application for web design. I understood the basics well enough. It was the details that got to me. Maybe it was the instructor. All I know is, if I blanked out or was otherwise was concentrating on something else for just a second, I'd miss something important, and would have to call the assistant over to get caught up. This happened throughout the first day. I thought it was just a lack of sleep the night before, and so was determined to gut it out. But when it kept happening on Tuesday, the instructor threw up his hands, I was referred to a supervisor, and was invited to re-schedule the following month. Thanks for making me look stupid, guys.

My medications are all on schedule. Maybe I've got some attention-deficit thing going on. My doctor couldn't explain it either: "Maybe you and the teacher weren't a good match." Uh-huh. I'm going to a specialist on Friday. It's just a hunch, but I think something else is going on.

Post-traumatic stress? Nah. Stay tuned...
A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request
by Steve Goodman (1983)

(Dom, this one's for you.)

(spoken)
By the shore's of old Lake Michigan
Where the "hawk wind" blows so cold
An old Cub fan lay dying
In his midnight hour that tolled
Round his bed, his friends had all gathered
They knew his time was short
And on his head they put this bright blue cap
From his all-time favorite sport
He told them, "its late and its getting dark in here"
And I know its time to go
But before I leave the line-up
Boys, there's just one thing I'd like to know


(sung)
Do they still play the blues in Chicago
When baseball season rolls around
When the snow melts away,
Do the Cubbies still play
In their ivy covered burial ground
When I was a boy they were my pride and joy
But now they only bring fatigue
To the home of the brave
The land of the free
And the doormat of the National League


(spoken)
Told his friends "You know the law of averages says:
Anything will happen that can."
That's what it says.
"But the last time the Cubs won a National League pennant
Was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan"
The Cubs made me a criminal
Sent me down a wayward path
They stole my youth from me
(that's the truth)
I'd forsake my teacher's
To go sit in the bleachers
In flagrant truancy
and then one thing led to another
and soon I'd discovered alcohol, gambling, dope
football, hockey, lacrosse, tennis
But what do you expect,
When you raise up a young boys hopes
And then just crush 'em like so many paper beer cups.


(spoken)
Year after year after year
after year, after year, after year, after year, after year
'Til those hopes are just so much popcorn
for the pigeons beneath the 'EL' tracks to eat
He said "You know I'll never see Wrigley Field, anymore
before my eternal rest
So if you have your pencils and your score cards ready,
and I'll read you my last request


(spoken)
He said, "Give me a double header funeral in Wrigley Field
On some sunny weekend day (no lights)
Have the organ play the National Anthem
and then a little "na, na, na, na, hey hey, hey, Goodbye"
Make six bullpen pitchers, carry my coffin
and six ground keepers clear my path
Have the umpires bark me out at every base
In all their holy wrath
Its a beautiful day for a funeral, Hey Ernie lets play two!
Somebody go get Jack Brickhouse to come back,
and conduct just one more interview
Have the Cubbies run right out into the middle of the field,
Have Keith Moreland drop a routine fly
Give everybody two bags of peanuts and a frosty malt
And I'll be ready to die


(spoken)
Build a big fire on home plate out of your Louisville Sluggers baseball bats,
And toss my coffin in
Let my ashes blow in a beautiful snow
From the prevailing 30 mile an hour south west wind
When my last remains go flying over the left field wall
Will bid the bleacher bums adieu
And I will come to my final resting place, out on Waveland Avenue


(spoken)
The dying man's friends told him to cut it out
They said stop it that's an awful shame
He whispered, "Don't Cry, we'll meet by and by near the Heavenly Hall of Fame
He said, "I've got season's tickets to watch the Angels now,
So its just what I'm going to do
He said, "but you the living, you're stuck here with the Cubs,
So its me that feels sorry for you!
And he said, "Ahh Play, play that lonesome losers tune,
That's the one I like the best
And he closed his eyes, and slipped away
What we got is the Dying Cub Fan's Last Request
And here it is


(sung)
Do they still play the blues in Chicago
When baseball season rolls around
When the snow melts away,
Do the Cubbies still play
In their ivy covered burial ground
When I was a boy they were my pride and joy
But now they only bring fatigue
To the home of the brave
The land of the free
And the doormat of the National League.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Memo to Mark Shea: It's one thing to connect the dots...

...but can you promise to stay inside the lines???

The rest of you, stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

"Every time it rains, it rains petals from heaven..."

(-- with apologies to Arthur Johnson and Johnny Burke)

Today is the Feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux.

Also known as "Teresa the Little Flower," she was a novice at a Carmelite house in France over a century ago.

Her mother died when she was four. Her stepmother walked out on her a few years later. Little Therese Martin broke down. Then at 14 she underwent a conversion experience, and thus began her love affair with God. Shortly thereafter, she persuaded her father Louis to take her to Rome, where in a general audience with the Pope, she walks right up to him and asks to be admitted early as a Carmelite nun. That got her in -- sort of. There was a delay while those responsible mulled it over. But you gotta admit, that was a pretty gutsy thing to do.

She entered the Carmel of Lisieux, where her sister Celine was already a member. Despite a rather sheltered and comfortable childhood, Therese embraced the hardships and austerity of convent life, to the amazement (and not a little jealousy) of her fellow sisters.

Yet she suffered from a variety of emotional and physical ailments for much of her life. She eventually died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 24. She told of her last wish: "My mission - to make God loved - will begin after my death, I will spend my heaven doing good on earth...I will send a shower of roses."

She wrote only one little book, "The Story of a Soul." She also wrote letters to several priests for whom she regularly offered prayers. Yet it seems for every word she penned, someone has written a whole book about her life, her work, her "little way" of life, and the inspiration she has been to millions of Catholics -- and a few non-Catholics as well.

Therese changed our whole notion of what a saint is -- and is not. They are not plaster-cast dolls with charmed lives, but real flesh and blood creatures with the same trials and tribulations and faults as the rest of us. No wonder she quickly became the inspiration of Catholic schoolchildren around the world. They, too, could be like her.

This spring, a movie directed by Leonardo Defilippis entitled Therese will be released. Click on the name to see the official website, a preview, and three excerpts from the film.
From our bulging "as if we didn't know" file...

"If your child is always buried in homework, she doesn't have much company. Most U.S. students in elementary through high school spend less than an hour studying most nights, a report released today says."

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The News From Albany

A Solemn High Tridentine Mass will be celebrated on Sunday, October 5, 2003 at 12:30 PM at St Peter's Roman Catholic Church at 2310 Fifth Street, Troy. NY. The New York Catholic Chorale, under the direction of Thomas Savoy, will perform Hans Leo Hassler's Missa Octo Vocum and Andrzej Hakenberge's motet O Sacrum Convivium.

This is the first Solemn High Tridentine Mass celebrated at a parish church in the Diocese of Albany since 1969. A Solemn High Mass is celebrated with the assistance of a deacon and subdeacon. A free-will luncheon at St Peter's Lyceum, across Fifth Street from the Church, will follow, as will as a parish bake sale.

Contact 518.272.2750 for further details.

Monday, September 29, 2003

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

• You already knew about the passing of Elle Kazan (who directed those classic movies starring Marlon Brando A Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront, not to mention James Dean in East of Eden...). But did you also know...?

• Author George Plimpton, best known as the man who would try damn near anything once (Including playing for the Detroit Lions), then write about it, but was bumped out of playing himself in the movie about himself (Not funny enough, they said; the job went to some new guy at the time named Alan Alda...), died last Thursday night at 76.

• Singer Robert Palmer, who wrote and performed Addicted to Love and Simply Irresistable with those look-alike models in the background pretending to be his band (Personally, my money's still on his recording of Alan Toussaint's Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley...), died last Friday night at 54.

Meanwhile, in the land of the living...

• Drew Carey does Baghdad. He brought "Mimi" (Kathy Kinney) along: "I know that you've been here for a long time. But the longer you're here, the closer the Olsen Twins get to being 18 years old. June 13, 2004. They're worth like ... $50 billion between the two of them, but I bet they couldn't decorate your tents as good as I could."

"Decorate"? I don't get it.
Michaelmas Day

Today, the Roman Calendar traditionally commemorates the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, who led the armies of heaven against Lucifer and his posse, casting them into Hell. All this whoop-@$$-kickin' action, before the creation of the world. The celebration extends to the other two Archangels as well: Raphael, who gave both physical and spiritual sight to the young Tobit in the Old Testament; and Gabriel, who gave the news to a young virgin of Nazareth, that she would be the Mother of Jesus.

Throughout the Catholic world, dinner will feature an angel food cake, topped with three candles. As each candle is lit, the traditional prayer for each archangel is said. Most of us pushing 50 and over will remember the first one:

"Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our guard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil..."

"Sancte Míchael Archangele, defende nos in proelio contra nequítiam et insídias diaboli esto presídium..."

"San Miguel Arcángel, Defiéndenos en la batalla; Sé nuestra protección contra la maldad y los engaños del diablo..."

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Afterlife

"In the afterlife
You could be headed for the serious strife
Now you make the scene all day
But tomorrow there'll be Hell to pay."


-- from the song Hell by The Squirrel Nut Zippers

Heaven is where:

the police are British,
the chefs are Italian,
the mechanics are German,
the lovers are French,
and it is all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is where:

the police are German,
the chefs are British,
the mechanics are French,
the lovers are Swiss,
and it is all organized by the Italians.

Purgatory is where:

(Stay tuned...)

Thursday, September 25, 2003

"I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of the Lord..."

"...than to dwell in the tents of the wicked."
(from Psalm 84)

This weekend, for the third year in a row, I'll be working for an annual Catholic convention that meets in a hotel near Dulles Airport.

I'm the sacristan for this convention, and I wear the title proudly. I gather whatever materials are needed to erect and operate the chapel at the convention, from vestments to candlesticks. I arrange for young men to serve the priest, a gentleman who serves as master of ceremonies, and in some cases, the schola cantorum that sings in the choir. I also see to the needs of the priests who celebrate the daily and Sunday Masses. In return, I have my own room at the hotel, bill my meals to the room, have access to the indoor pool, and get to hob-nob with people I normally don't party with. Oh, and when it's over, I am handed an honorarium in the form of a check, which never hurts.

It's a hectic weekend when I'm there, but I often have the privilege of meeting people who inspire me in some way. I'm usually free to come and go when my business is done. But last year I had the chance to help an older and infirm priest say a private Requiem Mass in his room. It was an intimate experience, helping him keep his place in the ancient Latin text that was used, and watching the sun brighten his face as he moved his fingers over the Sacred Elements, reciting the ancient words used by Christ Himself: "This is my Body..." "This is the cup of my Blood..."

Not only that, but I get to dress up in a custom-tailored cassock with surplice. (Okay, my mother hemmed it for me. What of it?)

My days have been unsettling of late. While work has not been particularly demanding this week, I have had a variety of personal affairs that must be settled before the year is out. My social circle has been changing over the year, a rather sad development in many ways. But when God closes a door, he opens a window -- something I've managed to notice.

I went to Parents' Night at my son's high school. He's a senior this year. His teachers couldn't say enough good things about him. I found that encouraging. Paul and I drove to McDonald's afterwards, and engaged in a discussion of philosophy, one of the subjects he's studying. While I was impressed by the teacher of that class, I have to question that a public high school is the ideal place to study philosophy, especially from a Catholic perspective. So my son has agreed to let me tutor him in a separate course of study, including a series of recorded lectures and an accompanying textbook.

There is also my own life to consider. With Paul nearly emancipated, I look around at my little apartment, in the basement of a single-family dwelling. I have been content with the arrangement up until now, but for the last thirteen years, ever since my marriage ended, all I have done is live in basement apartments. I don't care for high-rise apartment buildings, as they bear little resemblance to a home, and the neighbors are adamant to remain strangers. I have thought of moving to Baltimore, a city which is within commuting distance of DC, and is more like a real place, not this supposed center of power where everybody is so damned important.

I was there in the late spring, in the Fells Point neighborhood, when I saw just what I wanted: a little rowhouse, a three-level, two bedroom with den and one bath, on a quiet side street. My friend Bonita remembered the place, having grown up down the street from it, back when it was a Polish neighborhood. (It still is, sort of.) I talked to the owner. For the rent and deposit he was asking, I said I'd just as soon buy it in a year or two. He seemed open to that possibility. So I got his contact information, and promised to call on him same time next year, or the year after. Depending on how high the water rose during Isabel, I believe I could be very happy there. I could provide a room for guests, including my son, should he ever decide to "return to the nest." At least he'll have one where he can return.

And so it goes. I might be making reports over the weekend, as time permits. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

• Why didn't I think of this... eh? A woman in British Columbia is suing Coca-Cola, after the cap of a two-liter bottle of Coke hit her in the eye upon opening. She claims the company failed to warn consumers of the dangers of handling soda bottles. Does this include shaking them first?

"Don't like my driving? Dial one-eight-hundred-kiss-my-..." In Escambia County, Florida, convicted drunk drivers have to put a red and yellow bumper sticker on their car, inviting people to call in and report erratic driving.

"It's a bird! It's a plane!! It's... Action Aaah-nold!!!" The actor and Republican candidate for Governor of California is depicted with a new toy by Herobuilders.com. "The Governator" is available in talking or non-talking versions.

• Stay inside the lines for this one, kids! Crayola is retiring four of its 120 colors later this year, replacing them with four others in time for their centennial celebration in October. There were also five colors they considered "redundant or unattractive": Burnt Sienna, Teal Blue, Blizzard Blue, Mulberry, and Magic Mint. Crayon fans got to vote to spare one of them, which will be announced on October 12. (If these kids ever go into art school, they'd better spare burnt sienna, which is a staple of oil color palates. Ever try substituting by mixing cadmium red light with raw sienna? Uh-huh, I trust I've made my point.)

• Female students at Bangkok University in Thailand who wear their school uniforms modestly, will be eligible for prizes of diamonds and gold jewelry, as a reward for being "well-dressed," at the end of the academic term. After all, no one ever sang "bare legs are a girl's best friend."

• One of my favorite singer-songwriters, John Gorka, was in Baltimore last week during Hurricane Isabel. At the height of the storm, his acoustic concert went totally unplugged: "Since the power was out, lighting was provided by candles and flashlights and the sound was provided by me. There were no injuries." If only I'd known ahead of time, I would have braved the elements to be there. His new CD on the Red House label, Old Futures Gone, was released yesterday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

From The MWBH Mailbag

Those clowns in the mail room interrupted their Foosball Tornament long enough to send me this little tidbit:

This is an interesting bit of information that you don't hear much about in the media ---

a.. Enron's chairman did meet with the president and the vice president in the Oval Office.

b.. Enron gave $420,000 to the president's party over three years.

c.. It donated $100,000 to the president's inauguration festivities.

d.. The Enron chairman stayed at the White House 11 times.

e.. The corporation had access to the administration at its highest levels and even enlisted the Commerce and State Departments to grease deals for it.

f.. The taxpayer-supported Export-Import Bank subsidized Enron for more than $600 million in just one transaction. Scandalous!!

g.. BUT...the president under whom all this happened WASN'T George W. Bush.

h.. SURPRISE ......... It was Bill Clinton!

Please pass this on so the whole Country will Know. The Media Won't! No DUH!!!!


Actually, I was too caught up in all the lip-locking to remember whether whatanybody said at the Emmy Awards. (Just kidding. I don't watch the Emmy Awards. It's all I can do to handle the Country Music Awards. My favorite part this year was when they booed The Dixie Chicks...)
You can take the Chicks out of Dixie, but...

It seems that The Dixie Chicks no longer consider themselves country music artists. To hear them tell it, they're straight rock-and-roll now.

So, does this mean they lose the banjo?

Eric Johnson of Catholic Light laments the sordid tale of "Goodbye Earl," one of their better-known tunes. "The theme: pre-meditated killing is fine, as long as your husband is a brutal jerk."

Actually, Eric, it's the gal who usually gets capped. The Anglo-American folk ballad tradition, which is part of the origin of what we know today as country-western music, is a common genre for tales of murder and mayhem, usually over matters of the heart. A case in point is "Omie Wise" -- all umpteen versions of it, on both sides of the Atlantic.

It sounds as though the Chicks are still getting henpecked (sorry, I couldn't help that one) over the remark one of them made in the UK, about being ashamed that President Bush is from Texas. So other country artists -- Toby Keith, among others -- are coming out with patriotic tunes: "You'll be sorry you messed with the U S of A / 'cuz we'll put a boot in your @$$, it's the American way..."

Actually, that one's a lot easier to sing than "The Star Spangled Banner." Will we eventually sing Keith's song at the ball park? Stay tuned...

Monday, September 22, 2003

St Blog's Has Two Mommies
Random Thoughts at Four in the Morning

It's after four in the morning. I never went to bed after coming home from the zydeco dance at the Relay Town Hall. I arrived at the apartment, made a few phone calls, and there was all that needed to be done on Monday, just sitting there. I started into the task at hand, and just didn't stop.

Okay, so a re-run of The X-Files came on. But I hadn't seen it yet. And even if I had, my son Paul and I love to compare notes on them, being the avid devotees we are for the series.

Anyhow, Isabel was kind to my neighborhood, relatively speaking. Arlington County (Virginia) didn't have problems with its water, unlike other areas. And the power outages were minor compared with the District and suburban Maryland. Going up Massachusetts Avenue on Friday night was quite the adventure, especially with parts of Embassy Row in total darkness, except (of course) for the Naval Observatory where the Vice President lives. Wisconson Avenue was an improvement -- well, sort o. The main drag was okay, but the residential areas were completely out of power.

On the bright side, when I was at the swing dance that same night, I met this gal who's part of a band -- oh, excuse me, a collective -- called Takoma Zone. Sounds like just the kind of arrangement I've been looking for. As luck would have it, I was invited. I never was much of a joiner, and even though I play at least six or seven musical instruments (well, okay, I'm proficient with two of them, but I can fake my way with the others), the phone ain't ringin' off the hook. This is good news.

My son turns eighteen in a few weeks. That's when things change for him, for us, for the whole arrangement of taking care of him. But he still has most of senior year to complete. It was always my intention to support him through the end of high school. But the arrangement will have to change, and that weights heavily on my mind of late.

Also on my mind, is my life. A child leaves the nest (well, not my nest, but the one I've been subsidizing), and like every parent faced with this moment, I begin to look inward. Oh, he still has college to consider. But he'll be on his own for awhile. His mother is contemplating a move back to our native Ohio. That leaves me with the task of finding a bigger place, one where he can "return to the nest" if he must.

Not only that, but I'm tired of living in little apartments. I'm pushing fifty, and something's gotta give.

Well, enough of this self-indulgence. I have an appointment with IHOP. Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Can you say "quinceanera"???

Dear Novus Ordo Watchers:

This is in reference to your apparent outrage over a scene in a Catholic Church, to be found here:

http://home.pacbell.net/rfkeller/HolyGhost/

It is accompanied by the following comment:

"What the heck is THIS? YOU figure it out."

Well, I did, and it wasn't hard.

It is the custom among Latinos, that when a young lady reaches the age of fifteen years, her entry into womanhood is accompanied by an elaborate ceremony, known as the "quinceanera." The preparations can be quite lavish, often reaching the cost equivalent to a wedding. A blessing at the parish church is neither uncommon, nor is it to be considered, by any means, a mere post-conciliar innovation.

But don't take my word for it; read the following...

http://www.filmakers.com/indivs/FifteenZaachila.htm

...and now, having disgraced someone's innocent daughter on the Internet, FOR NO DAMN GOOD REASON (!!!), the standards of gentlemanly conduct (as is to be found among all good Catholic men, at least those of my acquaintance) would appear to require you to issue a retraction, and apologize.

DLA

Friday, September 19, 2003

Life After Isabel

They closed the Federal government in metro DC yesterday. The main factor was the safety risk in maintaining public transportation, especially Metrorail, with high winds blowing. And today I was on sick leave for medical appointments, all of which have been cancelled. So it's day two of a four-day weekend. I've been quite busy, going through closets and getting rid of clothing that's too big for me, having lost 35 pounds (that's four inches off the waist) in two years.

Last night was a real trip, I gotta tell ya. I park my car on the street, but followed a hunch and parked it elsewhere. The landlord's tree fell right where... you guessed it. Talk about a charmed life. The gal down the street wasn't so lucky; two trees fell on her house, and she had to spend the night with a neighbor.

Today is cloudy, with people cleaning up tree limbs up and down the street. Thankfully, the power in our neighborhood never went out (although it did blink at us a few times), so life can soon return to normal for most of us. I have more work to do. I was going to go to Philly tonight to dance to C J Chenier, but with the weather moving up the Eastern seaboard, I'm not sure how things will be up there. I may call the club first.

On the other hand, maybe a night of swing at the nearby Chevy Chase Ballroom wouldn't hurt. Then it's zydeco for the rest of the weekend, including another night at the Cat's Eye.

You know, I hear tell it that folks in Louisiana actually have "hurricane parties" while the wind kicks up its own heels. Can you believe that? Stay tuned...