Friday, January 31, 2003

Candlemas Day (or, Why Punxatauney Phil is a Catholic)

"When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord."
(Luke 2:22-24)

This coming Sunday, February 2nd, the Roman Calendar observes the Feast of the Purification of Our Lord (Candlemas), exactly forty days after Christmas. In some traditions, the Christmas season officially ends with this day, and preparation for Lent can begin. Throughout the Catholic world, the faithful will process in and around their churches bearing lighted candles, which are blessed for the coming year.

About once every eleven years or so, the observance falls on a Sunday. (That means, Padre, that there's no excuse for you to slack off this year. Give these folks a dog and pony show worth remembering!)

The origin of this feast is described in detail, in this excerpt from the classic work of Dom Prosper Guéranger entitled The Liturgical Year.

In addition, Duncan Maxwell Anderson of HMS Blog provides guidance on customs of the season, as well as suggestions for family celebrations. Included are some fun facts about the real origins of Groundhog Day:

"In Catholic Europe, they say that if Candlemas is clear and bright, there will be six more weeks of winter. In Germany, this idea became, 'If the bear comes out and sees his shadow, he will grumpily go back into his cave, and winter will last another six weeks.'

"Then this feat of prediction was ascribed to German badgers.

"And since badgers are not found in the eastern U.S., German immigrants to this country were obliged to depend for meteorological guidance on a species of marmot called by the Indians 'weejak' or woodchuck, also called... the groundhog.

"This Sunday, if Punxatawney Phil sticks his nose out, you tell me if he isn't carrying a candle-holder. He's Catholic, you know."


You just can't argue with reasoning like that, eh?

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

"God grant me the authority to change the things I cannot accept."

This quotation was found among the buttons sold at a recent convention of Canada's New Democrat Party -- sort of like our own Democrats, only more so. The National Post has the story, found via Relapsed Catholic.

Eat your heart out, Reinhold Niebuhr.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Uncle Tom

Today, Catholics celebrate the memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the thirteenth century Dominican priest and Doctor of the Church. John da Fiesole gives him a brief tribute on Disputations. He was commissioned by the Pope to write the Sequence that is sung on the Feast of Corpus Christi, an eloquent tribute to the Blessed Sacrament. In addition, and also wrote a number of beautiful Latin hymns, among them Tantum Ergo Sacramentum and Adoro Te Devote.

I learned to be a "Thomist" at the dinner table of my family home. Our parents would engage us in discussions, occasionally challenging us to determine the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind our positions. My father once said: "Everything you do in life will either be a plus or a minus. There will be nothing in between." Only when I was well into adulthood would I discover the inspiration for that maxim.

People think his work is complicated. Quite the opposite, in fact. During his years of study, the works of Aristotle were becoming popular. The lack of apparent ability to reconcile the Greek philosopher's school of thought with Christianity was cause for intense debate among scholars. Into the fray weighed "The Angelic Doctor." Universalis, the online website for the Divine Office, relates the following:

"Into this chaos Thomas brought simple, straightforward sense. Truth cannot contradict truth: if Aristotle (the great, infallible pagan philosopher) appears to contradict Christianity (which we know by faith to be true), then either Aristotle is wrong or the contradiction is in fact illusory. And so Thomas studied, and taught, and argued, and eventually the simple, common-sense philosophy that he worked out brought an end to the controversy. Out of his work came many writings on philosophy and theology, including the Summa Theologiae, a standard textbook for many centuries and still an irreplaceable resource today.

"Out of his depth of learning came, also, the dazzling poetry of the liturgy for Corpus Christi. And out of his sanctity came the day when, celebrating Mass, he had a vision that, he said, made all his writings seem like so much straw; and he wrote no more..."


According to one Thomist lecturer I once heard, the term "straw" could be accurately translated to read "dung" -- or even more accurately, that of a bovine male.

Monday, January 27, 2003

The Morning After

I don't doubt the jubilation in Tampa Bay over winning their first Super Bowl (indeed, by a comfortable margin over a more experienced team). But I only caught the summaries on the eleven o'clock news, and that was enough for me. I spent a quiet evening at a friend's house, where I fell asleep by the fireplace while she caught up on her work. Then we shared a pizza and went to a movie. In between assignments here at the office, I've been on the phone trying to line up more opportunities to play zydeco this year. Road houses, house parties, on the road, or just down the road -- hell, I don't care. Anything for a break.

I thought I'd go to Phillie this Friday night to see Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha-Chas. Other than that, who knows?

In the meantime, I've been consulting with a number of people about whether I should go into public speaking, mainly at Catholic-type events. Some have suggested I should, but what would I say? I know I don't want to do what everybody else does. But other than that...

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Super Bowl Weekend: The Short Version

Tonight I'll pick up my son Paul, then we'll go see Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers. After that gets us all fired up, we'll cruise on over to the Half Moon Cafe in Silver Spring MD to squelch an appetite, maybe catch a few bars of The Ardoin Family Band featuring Morris Ardoin. Saturday I've got to finish cleaning out The Eternal Closet. Then it's off to The Barn at Catonsville, for s'more of those Ardoin people. Sunday morning will find me on the Eastern side of the tracks, attending Orthodox liturgy in Baltimore with a friend of mine. That night I'll honor the Super Bowl on my own terms (inasmuch as I don't give a rat's ass about either Oakland or Tampa Bay anyhow), and will join "Texas Fred" Carter and his merry band of zydeco fanatics, for a "Super Bowl Zydeco Party" with (once again!) Li'l Pookie, at a place in Takoma Park MD.

(Note to E.W. in Chicago: You wanna know what I'm up to, honey? You gotta read this. Any more questions, you gotta call. I'm in the book. Love to hear from ya.)

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Keepers

(Note: The following was sent to me by a regular correspondent. I dedicate it to my family back in Ohio -- my mother, my father, my brother Steve, and my sisters Mary and Pat. In 1970, Dad was diagnosed with MS. He has declined gradually over the years, to the point where he is now in a wheelchair, and Mom takes care of him at home. After she suffered a minor stroke just over a year ago, my siblings rallied, and the grandchildren with them. As I remained informed from a distance, this family of mine takes care of its own. My parents celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary last June. Most of us agree they've been a tough act to follow.)

I grew up in the fifties with practical parents. A Mother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it.

She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it... and a Father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones.

Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away. I can see them now, Dad in trousers, tee shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress, lawn mower in one hand, dishtowel in the other.

It was the time for fixing things -- a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things we keep. It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy! All that re-fixing, reheating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant there'd always be more.

But then my Mother died, and on that clear winter's night, in the warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't any more!!!!!! Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away...never to return.

So...while we have it...it's best we love it.....and care for it.....and fix it when it's broken.....and heal it when it's sick. This is true.....for marriage.....and old cars.....and children with bad report cards.....and dogs with bad hips.....and aging parents.....and grandparents.

We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it. Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away -- or -- a classmate we grew up with. There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special.....and so, we keep them close!

(Anonymous)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

I stopped being a lay reader at my parish because...

...they told us that we would also have to alternate being a commentator. This was the pastor's idea of implementing the revisions in the Roman Missal, and otherwise "getting lay people more involved."

It's also his idea of insulting our intelligence. Apparently, I'm too stupid to read the revised General Instruction myself, let alone know diddley about the details of Catholic worship. Not only that, but I should feel good about getting up at 6:30 in the morning to run over there by 7:30 and read some dumb-ass introduction with an equally dumb-ass sermonette attached, then tell everybody to do the obvious: "Please stand."

But enough about my opinion. Bryan Baldwin of Catholic Light spells it out more eloquently.

What Of Our Humanity?

Thirty years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States (otherwise known affectionately as "the High Court") decided that, since it could not be determined when life began in the womb, an unborn child could be presumed not to have the right to life and liberty accorded under the laws of this land, never mind those of Nature Herself. So the child was presumed guilty until proven innocent. The decision was also based upon a deception, since the story employed by "Jane Roe" (aka Norma McCorvey) to make her case proved to be fabricated.

Three decades have passed, and forty million children have died. We are shocked by the horror that was "9/11," and yet such horror occurs every day, quietly, in "health clinics" across the USA. If a child is emerging from the womb, a doctor can take a pair of scissors and gorge its brains out, and call it "terminating a pregnancy." Once the child has left the womb, the same procedure is known as "infanticide." So the unwanted child is left in the womb partially, long enough to do the evil deed. Hence the term "partial-birth abortion."

Most women who procure abortions would just as soon not. They are backed into a corner, often by their boyfriends, husbands, or fathers. They turn to places run mostly by men, who profit from their pain. This writer has heard countless stories of women turned away from clinics at the sidewalks, by sincere individuals willing to put themselves on the line, in offering an alternative.

A friend of mine once told me of how he and his wife decided they could never bring a child into a world like it is today. But since when has the world NOT been a terrible place, in one form or another? Could that one child make the difference to someone in that world someday?

My only son, the product of a "broken home," has made a difference in my life. For all my success in the world, my single greatest contribution to humanity, is a seventeen-year-old, highly creative, wise-cracking, recovering alcoholic from Fairfax County, Virginia. If I never marry again, this will be my legacy -- God's gift to me, my gift to the world. Even the great gospel singer Ethel Waters was conceived as the result of a rape. God lifted her out of tragedy into a voice that would praise His name in this world, and God willing, the next.

Can anything good come out of suffering? It often does, given the chance for God to proceed with His will. And millions will converge on the Nation's capital to say "Yes" to that choice. I have marched with them in the past, mothers with babes in arms, college students singing songs of virtue and glory, brave men and women who have known the darkness of a prison cell, for the crime of demanding freedom of the innocent. They are righteous in their anger, peaceful in their demeanor, and one day, they shall prevail.

Details, details, it's all in the details...

Father Tucker of Dappled Things continues a series on ceremonial articles used in the liturgy of the Roman church. This installment talks about the corporal and the burse.

I got a question for ya, Padre. You mention that a priest normally intends to consecrate those elements which are resting on the corporal, as criterion for validity. What if there is no corporal used at all, which was the case for the parish in Seattle where I served last New Year's Eve? (See The Seattle Chronicles: Day Nine.) All they had was a set of two white paraments, crossing in the middle, over a square free-standing altar.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

"Your left, your left, your left, right, left..."

Mark Shea has some thoughts on the use of the term "conservative" in matters of faith. As I have wondered on occasion myself, such usage begs the question as to what it is, exactly, that is being "conserved":

"[Orthodoxy] is not 'having a particular temperament,' or 'disliking change' or 'being thought fondly of by the Pope' or 'voting for Reagan' or 'distrusting big government' or any of the other shibboleths."

Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens has some advice for his "friends on the right." (After that crap he wrote about Mother Teresa, and said out loud as a commentator on ABC News during her funeral, I cannot be counted as one of them.)

Lambs

Today, the Roman church commemorates Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr. Her name is from the Latin word agnus, which means "lamb." She is also the patroness of my home parish.

There can also be found a collection of lambs (with a few llamas thrown in for good measure), depicted on the weblog Notes From a Hillside Farm, authored by an practicing attorney and gentleman farmer from Warren County VA by the name of John Bell. An Orthodox Christian, John weaves his spirituality with the life in the midst of the Blue Ridge. His pictures from Glenrose Farm are so very inviting, I've half a mind to pay the fellow a visit out of the blue one day, if he would oblige me. Since I spent a few summers on my Grandpa's and Uncle Bernard's farms, I'm not above pitching in when the occasion arises.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day (or Lee-Jackson Day, for some of those who make Virginia their home). I went out to the movie Chicago. I am told the Broadway production was a big hit. The movie version seems to be no less well received. While certainly not suitable fare for young children, it was quite a show. I went with a friend I hadn't seen in awhile. We got caught up on our lives, visited antique stores, I helped her take down her Christmas tree, and we sat by the fire and talked of the year ahead.

I have some plans to travel. My sister Pat has set the date for her wedding, at her new parish near Cincinnati -- Saturday, the 17th of May, in the mid-afternoon. Before that I hope to visit Toronto. During the summer I want to go to Seattle again, this time with my son Paul.

I came up with a title for my book of essays, tentatively set for publication in '04 or '05. The cover will show me tipping my black hat, just enough to show whatever is lacking underneath. The title itself will be... "Nothing to Hide."

Well, whaddaya think?

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Me and the Boyz

This last Friday night, I went to see Li'l Pookie at the Barn at Catonsville -- as a dancer, not a guitar man. Seems Pookie found a guy he had worked with before who could accompany him to New York for the remaining performances. So another guy took the stage that night instead of me. I thanked the bandleader for being able to join him the Sunday before. As one who has been playing since he was 11, and who has been around enough of these guys, I could appreciate his position, and his need to be as much at ease with his lineup as possible.

So my son Paul and I had a "boys night out." Over a bowl of chili and rice, we listened to one of the band members give his own account of life "behind the music." ("Listen, VH1 doesn't begin to scratch the surface.") He'd been playing with his dad in Nashville from the time he was a young teenager, and he's been playing professionally ever since. For all the hardship, loneliness on the road away from family, cheap hotels, occasionally getting shortchanged after a gig or a recording deal, he could not imagine doing anything else.

I persuaded a woman Paul didn't know to get him out on the dance floor ("Hi, Paul, I'm ****. Your dad paid me to come over here and..."). He's starting to get the hang of it. Afterwards, we got a bite to eat at an all-night diner. We talked about the video game business, where it was going, and how Paul saw himself in the midst of it someday. He wants to develop stories with multiple endings. I recalled seeing mystery novels that were similar in concept, but couldn't remember the names of them. (Well???)

The weather has been cold in the middle Atlantic region. The sun does little to warm the bones. I managed to catch a movie, Adaptation. While the story was rather disjointed, I found myself identifying with the main characters, as the hidden thoughts of genius betray frequent insecurities, brought about by one's own unrealistic expectations.

It is Sunday morning, and I am going to Mass soon. Yesterday I survived on four hours of sleep, and I have yet to catch up. Some people who lose sleep get very grouchy; I merely get melancholy. So I'll spend the rest of the day catching up around the house, and practicing the wooden flute I recently acquired. While I'm at it, I'll get up to speed on my guitar work.

As long as I'm awake, I may as well enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

From our bulging "Saints for All Occasions" file...

...comes this little gem from today's issue of The Guardian.

Dateline Nevins, Florida:

Pete Vere runs away to join the circus.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Yes, Mark, I still have a TV in my house!

How the hell else am I supposed to watch NBC's "The West Wing," or "ER" and "The X-Files" in syndicated reruns, or every "Star Trek" variation in the universe, or if my local cable company ever wises up, "Mother Angelica Live"?

Personally, I don't watch the commercials much. Although I find the latest one for SPAM to be quite amusing. You know, the one where the delivery truck crashes through the house to supply unlimited quantities of the miraculous mystery meat. Besides, that's why God gave us the "mute" button. "And God looked down on the remote control in the hands of the man He created, and saw the mute button, and found that it was good."

Besides, if I didn't have a TV, I couldn't watch THIS on the public access channel.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to catch "Walker Texas Ranger." After all, he is a good guy in a black hat, eh?

Monday, January 13, 2003

Garage Bands Revisited (and Other Visitations)

This past weekend saw a lot of dancing, to the music of Li'l Pookie and the Zydeco Heartbreakers, all the way from Opelousas, in Saint Landry Parish, LA -- "The Zydeco Capital of the World."

Or most of the Heartbreakers, I should say. The bass player didn't make it. So guitar man Chris Breaux took over on bass. They didn't have a guitar player for Friday or Saturday. Then Saturday at Glen Echo Park, some of the band got a chance to hear my guitar with the built-in amp/speaker, "dancin'" solo near the stage. Thus was my competence determined. Come Sunday, before the house party got started, we had a hour-long jam session, just to get the bugs worked out. Once the action got started, and they were stirrin' up that gumbo, I ended up playing virtually the whole three-hour set. It was a great learning experience. I could get used to this!!!

Diane drove me into Philadelphia for the day on Saturday. We talked of city life and visited the market district near Chinatown. We got our picture taken standing by the Liberty Bell. Phillie is a lovely city. Walking the cobblestone streets of the older section, I was reminded of the years I lived in Georgetown.

Last night I called my friend in Toronto. She was in Castlegar, BC, visiting her family, while I was in Seattle. We both agreed that "the family thing" was important at such a time of year, and we compared notes on our mountain experiences. There is a contra dance weekend coming up in April, and I mentioned how I might be up there by then. It would be nice to see her again, and to visit a city about which I have heard so much.

After all, I never met a Canadian I didn't like. Not yet, anyway.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Relics in the Heartland

In the past week, both Amy Welborn and Don Jim report on an NPR piece on the Maria Stein Center and Shrine of the Holy Relics in central western Ohio. The Center is truly a magnificent piece of work, located amidst the fertile fields where many German and French Catholics settled in the mid-19th century. Maria Stein is just a half-hour's drive from Sidney, the seat of Shelby County, and where my father grew up. There, on a Sunday afternoon, you can still hear the clarion bells of the county courthouse ring out sacred hymns. The sound of them is enough to take me back to my childhood.

This weekend, it's off to Philadelphia, the "city of sisterly love." Till then, I hear the highway a-callin'...

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Memo to Victor Lams: It's A Jungle Out There!

I was going through my archives today, and I came across this one from your weblog dated last August 16th:

"Tim Drake some some excellent (previously published!) observations on androgeny as well as a rebuff to this post by David Alexander wherein he (David) doesn't see what the big deal is with the whole Our Lady of Hollywood thing and thinks that we should all just get out a lot more to see all the... collagen-lipped, flat-chested, narrow-hipped, androgenous, zydeco-dancing women that the world has to offer. (Note to David: the whole reason I got the internet in the first place was so that I'd never have to leave my house again)."

Well, Vic, in case that's still the modus operandi in your neck of the woods, here's what you could be missing. Witness this priceless gem I got today from one of the aforementioned females:

"They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them. Send this phrase to the people you'll never forget. It's a short message to let them know that you'll never forget them... If you don't send it to anyone, you're a meathead and you've forgotten your friends.

"Take the time to live!!!

"Life is too short... Dance Naked."


I trust I have made my point (whatever that is).

My mother thinks I should write a book!

She got this idea after my kid sister printed out copies of The Seattle Chronicles (per my instruction) and read them to the folks. The problem is, I don't know what to say. Serves me right, though, for telling them what I'm up to.

Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

"You know, some of this stuff is a little over my head, Dave..."

To whoever keeps telling me that (and you know who you are, Pat), it is true that my writings occasionally deal with some pretty arcane topics. Sometimes they even make my eyes glaze over, and I wonder if I'm really getting out of the house enough. And yet, they are well within the province of a circle of fellow-sojourners, who make their mark elsewhere in the Catholic blogosphere. (In other words, there are people who actually read this stuff!)

But recently I returned to something my friend Thomas Storck once wrote in his book The Catholic Milieu:

"Our entire daily lives cannot be occupied with purely religious practices; all of us have to eat, and most of us have and want to do many other activities besides. So though we cannot always be religious in this sense, we can always be Catholic, that is, the round of our daily activities can be conducted in such a way as to express and be in harmony with our Faith. And [this] can involve more than avoiding sin and exercising virtue..."

About that time, one of those sojourners, one Dave Pawlak of Milwaukee, and author of the weblog Pompous Ponderings, invited me to join his "group blog" known as Caritas Unitas et Veritas. And so I did. I also included a (mercifully) short autobio, for those of you who missed it the first time on MWBH.

In the future, some of my more esoteric contributions in the area of Catholicism will be found there, and I will of course make reference to them here.

Okay, everybody breathe a sigh of relief. In... Out... Goooood, that's it!!!!

"The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle..."

(What the hell was Perry Como thinking when he sang that???)

Looking in the MWBH Mail Room (okay, I had to expand!), I dug up this recollection from "Jay":

"Back in '79 I hitchhiked up there from LA to visit a couple of friends (that was my 'great manhood adventure,' as I knew that with RR's election such trips would soon be untenable with the settling in of 'the big chill.') I remember walking around that open air market and writing a post card under the Space Needle. My friend's apartment where I was staying was on Capital Hill, and as I waited for him to get off of work on the day of my arrival I was whistled at by some gay guys who lived in a house across the street. I always thought of them when the AIDS epidemic hit a few years later wondering how many of their young and vigorous lives fell pray to the ravages of that deadly pelage.

"Anyway, Happy New Year, and may you heart be filled with love and your hands be busy with our King's work, now and always. I don't know what you think of the various Marian prophecies, but my thoughts turn often to the promised 'Triumph of the Immaculate Heart.' This is nothing but a hunch, but I think that after this year that triumph will be plain to see."


Thanks, Jay. Another thing that's "plain to see" is that the "deadly pelage" to which you were referring was not whistling. Actually, I'm a little jealous, 'cuz nobody whistled at me while I was there, and I've been told over the years by a number of women that I have a very nice.... er, um, pair of eyes. Yeah, that's it.

Okay, anything else? I've got people to thank. First, the entire Lampkin family, especially my aunt Shirley and "the Doc," who made me feel so much at home, I'm convinced I actually have one out there. Then there's the clergy, staff, and people of Sacred Heart Parish in Bellevue, who received me so warmly when I was attending Mass there -- especially pastoral associate Dr Gretchen Gundrum, one of the finest teachers McNicholas High School ever had.

Then there are people like Mark Shea and his lovely family, who are not only entertaining, but fun to entertain. I look forward to them meeting my son Paul, in the event of our return this summer. (Hopefully on Southwest. Love their attitude!) And also Paul Thorpe, the guy who lives in the basement apartment, for introducing me to the local roots music scene.

Finally, the zydeco community of Seattle, who reminded me that the language of music and dance crosses all boundaries. My special thanks go out to Sean "The Gator" Donovan, Deanna Whetsell (who remembered me from Buffalo Jambalaya 2001, I have no idea why), our hostess for New Year's Eve, Julia Hecht, some guy identified only as "JEng7400@aol.com" whom I never got to meet -- and of course, any woman brave enough to let a guy from out of town dip them at the end of a dance (and I've never lost a gal yet). You go, grrls!!!

Did I miss anybody? Oh, the bus drivers of Seattle. You guys and gals keep that town moving. Keep it up!

Monday, January 06, 2003

I wanna be this guy when I grow up!

Fred Reed is the type of curmudgeon who could ultimately become my model, my hero -- if only he would return my calls.

No, seriously, I've never called him. Hell, I never even heard of the guy, until Chris Ryland of Steubenville (southeastern Ohio's cultural mecca) brought my attention to Fred's commentary on the inevitable course of militant capitalism, entitled "The Suicide of Marlboro Man".

Now, I ask you, who can argue with reasoning like that?

Twelfth Night

"Joy, health, love and peace
Be all here in this place
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our King.

"Our King is well dressed
In silks of the best
In ribbons so rare
No King can compare.

"We have traveled many miles
Over hedges and stiles
In search of our King
Unto you we bring.

"We have powder and shot
To conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball
To conquer them all.

"Old Christmas is past
Twelfth Night is the last
And we bid you adieu
Praise joy to the new."


When I was a child growing up in Milford, Ohio, there was an annual public bonfire of used Christmas trees, that took place every Epiphany. Closer to the present, I stepped out of my house last night and faced the entrance. With a piece of chalk, I inscribed the following over the door...

20 + C + M + B + 03

...while saying these words out loud: "Christus Masionem Benedicat... May Christ this dwelling bless."

For those with more time on their hands this day, the customs associated with this feast can be found here.

The Seattle Chronicles: Epilogue

"Parting is such sweet sorrow..."

(William Shakespeare)

...but it's never stopped me before.

I was up at 4:30 on Friday morning. I said goodbye to Jack -- or "Doc," as I had taken to calling him -- and with that, Shirley drove me to the airport. I remember crying the night before, at the thought of leaving loved ones and new friends behind. But there is no escape from reality. Besides, I gotta pay for the next trip.

I performed the unusual step of checking at least one bag, comprised of items I had acquired during the trip. It was mostly clothing (a depressed economy making for great bargains at thrift stores), and so was my largest bag for the journey home.

The security measures at Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma Airport) were a little more strict than at BWI. After setting off the alarm, I was sent to a chair and inspected more closely. Since the metal in my shoes set off an alarm as well, I was instructed to remove them (a measure never taken at BWI), while they were run through a scanner separately. They discovered at least one culprit among my belongings, a harmonica in my parka that I had forgotten to put in a tray.

For all their vigilance, they missed the other culprit, a little Swiss Army knife attached to my keychain, which I didn't discover myself until I was over Indiana. (Gee, do you think I should tell anybody? Nahhhhh!)

The sun had arisen over the eastern portion of Washington state by eight in the morning Pacific time. I adjusted my watch for landing in Chicago -- ten o'clock Central time. The hours were quickly flying by as we made our way "from sea to shining sea." I thought of my son Paul, and of how we were planning to return to Seattle together late this coming summer. (Note to Paul: the buses all over Seattle carried ads for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Sounds like kindred spirits to me, eh?)

We encountered some turbulence, no doubt caused by the wind blowing off the Continental Divide or thereabouts. But there was cloud cover, and little to see outside the window...

The night before, my cousin Theresa brought her three-year-old son Paul over for one last visit with me. He wanted to pretend he was a puppy dog and I was the owner, and told me to play fetch with him. We gave each other big bear hugs as we parted. I was going to miss the little critter. He reminded me so much of my own Paul as a little boy. One last look at the pictures on the wall before drifting off to sleep. My family was far flung across three thousand miles, yet so close to my heart, and with an open door to their own. I remembered what Gretchen had told us in her "reflection" at Mass the previous Sunday: "Family are those who, when you knock at the door, they have to let you in." Even so, Shirley said I pretty much took care of myself during the nearly two-week stay...

The sky was clearing, as we flew over northern Wyoming. Before this trip, the farthest west I had ever been was Denver. There was so much of this country yet to see. The turbulence had cleared by the time we reached South Dakota. I would have loved to see Mount Rushmore.

I witnessed the simple grandeur of the prairie lands below, as I read from my morning office of that day, with the words of Psalm 23(24):

"The Lord's is the earth and its fullness,
the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
on the waters he made it firm..."


It was a nearly two-hour wait for my connecting flight to BWI. If this had been O'Hara, I would probably be hoofing it across two or three terminals. Fortunately, this was Midway (see Chronicles: Day One).

I struck up a conversation with Karen, who wore a lapel pin in the image of a paintbrush, and I learned of her work with Habitat for Humanity. She was headed from this, her town of origin, to her adopted home of Baltimore (where I wish I could one day be headed). We sat together on the final leg of my journey. After listening to the dry wit of the flight attendant ("If you have brought any small children aboard for this flight... what were you thinking?"), we were off.

But not before listening to Southwest's version of Sophie's Choice: "In the event of a drop in cabin pressure -- do not grab the person next to you in a state of panic. Instead... If you have more than one child with you, you must quickly decide which of them will make the greater contribution to humanity when they grow up, and then..."

Coming into Baltimore, the clouds gave way to rain and overcsst skies, and the expected turbulence ("Alright, kids, sit down, you're shaking the plane."). Upon departing, I gave Karen a card with the Bon Temps Relay website. I'm always scoping for new talent. Finally, we were given the appropriate sendoff by Southwest Airline's finest:

"We love you, you love us.
We're much faster than the bus.
We hope you enjoyed our hospitality,
But if you were married to one of us,
You'd ride for free."


As we disembarked from the plane, I had to say to her what was in my heart: "Excuse me, ma'am, I think I'm in love -- but it's the third time this week, so don't worry about it."

Cheap flights, and an attitude! I'm gonna love flying Southwest again. You can too.

For nearly two weeks, the server at Johns Hopkins was apparently down, because the Bon Temps Relay site was unavailable, as was Gary Hayman's Cajun/Zydeco website. So I called my dance instruction partner, the lovely and talented Bonita, and asked her what the hell was going on. "We're having dinner right now, David. Why do you wanna know this now?" "Because I might wanna stay up here to catch some action, like I haven't had enough, you know?" Well, I only learned what was going down at the Cat's Eye when I got home.

And so, the adventure ends quietly, in my little place in Arlington where I hang my (black) hat. "Be it ever so humble..."

Thursday, January 02, 2003

The Seattle Chronicles: Day Eleven

"So fill to me the parting glass; good night and joy be with you all..."

I slept till almost eleven, heading out in the Jeep for Sacred Heart in Bellevue. Gretchen was able to see me for a little bit. We talked of our days when she taught me in high school; her Humanities Seminar was one of the most rewarding experiences of those years. We also got caught up on each other's lives, and I told her of my plans for coming out in the summer.

Afterwards, I drove down Interstate 5, stopping off at a parish of the same name near the Seattle Center, to go to confession at the only place where it was available during the week. (This certainly was a long way from Arlington.) My confessor was a good Joe, just in from Chicago, and new to his assignment. It was good to take spiritual stock of things with the new year.

I got back on the Interstate, mistakenly going south instead of north. But it gave me one more chance to look upon this city I had come to love. I knew I would one day return.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

The Seattle Chronicles: Day Ten

"Of all the glad New Year, mother, the maddest, merriest day;
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be queen o' the May..."


(Anyone for Tennyson???)

I must have overslept just a bit. But I knew I had to get packing today, if I was going to leave tomorrow. But first...

Lauren was a marketing consultant, originally from a town just outside of Philadelphia. She had lived in Falls Church, VA, a few miles from where I live now, for at least 25 years. She had only moved to Seattle a year and a half ago, and took up zydeco this past summer. We met on New Year's Eve, and discovered (again) what a small world it was. We met for coffee early that afternoon. After well over an hour of pleasant conversation, and shopping at Renovation Hardware store (because I just love their gift items, especially after Christmas at half price), we parted.

I looked around at everything I had to pack. Then I called the airline. It seemed that the route from Midway to BWI was overbooked already, and they expected some delay. I offered to take the same flight on the following day.

That evening, I sat with Lauren in front of the television, watching a video of one of my favorite movies, "Dance With Me," starring Vanessa Williams and Cheyanne. It's all about salsa dancing, but it's also about the attitude that goes with it -- if you really understand the heart and soul of it. Lauren had taken a salsa workshop once, and didn't quite get it. I reminded her of the similar Caribbean origins of salsa and zydeco, and proceeded with a hands-on demonstration. "One, two, three, rest, five, six, seven, rest, one, two, three, rest..." and so on, starting with the basic zydeco step, and moving right into the basic salsa step. She got it alright.

We were up past midnight, looking out at the rain on the lights of the city, that beautiful city in the distance. We reflected on the year that was past, and talked of dreams for the coming year. I had found a momentary soul mate, and certainly a new friend.

The rain was falling still as I drove home after one in the morning. The radio was on 105.3 FM, a local Christian rock station. They played songs of hope, that which was beyond human grasp. How fitting an end for the day.