Wednesday, May 26, 2004

This one's for all you bozos out there...

...who think they know more than I do about -- well, you know.

The "Ave Maria Pass" Revisited

Last week at this time, we touched upon the building of a new location for Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida.

Following the unveiling of plans to build an iconoclastic glass structure for a chapel, and a town that is effectively an automobile-dependent "Catholic suburb," three architecture students from Notre Dame came up with an alternative.

The overall site plan proposed by the students, breaks up the suburban monotony into neighborhoods scaled more to people than to cars. Access from residential to commercial to educational usage is more apparent, and more typical of how towns -- specifically college towns -- develop.

The chapel, designed by Matthew Enquist, applies a style of architecture more suited to the climate and heritage of the region. "[O]ur architecture should evolve from the Spanish mission style, which can be found as a regional architectural type... We really enjoyed exploring what kind of architecture and campus environment would reflect the culture and tradition of a Catholic university in Florida," said Enquist."

Besides, it even looks like a church. Duh...

Both the library of the campus, designed by Ryan Nicholson, and the civic center, designed by John Doyle, further reflect the mission style and Catholic heritage which is appropriate to the project. As Michael Rose points out: "The university is divided into two major parts: one centers around the library and its traditional mall quad; the other is arranged around the church in the best of medieval fashion. The civic center... functions as a link that ties these two campus neighborhoods together. It also provides a place for students and townies to meet and intermingle, drawing the town into the university."

The above is a more livable, and from a cultural standpoint, more Catholic solution, than the one put forward by University officials.

How will the University react to this alternative proposal, if at all?

What is it that makes an alternative like this "more Catholic" than another, in terms of inculcating a particular way of life, simply by virtue of the setting??

What is it like for a Jesuit to admit to being wrong about damn near anything???

Stay tuned...

Last night I had a dream...

...that I was a deacon for a bishop. After we vested and proceeded to process into the great cathedral, I removed the stole from around my shoulder, and confessed to the bishop that I was, in fact, not a deacon, but one who believed I was called.

What does this mean?

Greyfriar Watch: This Just In...

May 25, 2004

Dear Friends of Fr. Benedict,

Greetings in the Lord!

I am sending this to all those who have sent an e-mail greeting to Fr. Benedict since his serious accident back in January. Many of you have regularly checked the website to see his progress. Whether you visited just once or every day, please know that he is very grateful for your thoughtfulness and prayers!

Fr. Benedict is back home at Trinity Retreat. Through your prayers and sacrifices his condition continues to improve. He would like to invite you to log on to www.franciscanfriars.com for his daily internet mediations and reflections.

Keep those prayers coming!

God Bless
- Joseph Campo

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Geronimo's Cadillac
by Michael Martin Murphey, with Charles John Quarto

From his bio: "Written as a protest song after Murphey saw a photograph taken of the Chief being paraded in a Cadillac convertible, the single not only made it to the Top 40, but was used at the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1974 -- sealing his lifelong association with the Lakota Nation in South Dakota. Years later, Michael was adapted into the Lakota Nation by the Dull Knife Family, by request of medicine man, Guy Dull Knife."

They put Geronimo in jail down South
Where he couldn't look a gift horse in a mouth
Sergeant, Sergeant don't you feel
There's something wrong with your automobile
Warden, Warden, listen to me
Be brave and set Geronimo free
Governor, Governor, 'aint it strange
You never see a car on the Indian range

Oh boys take me back
I wanna ride in Geronimo's Cadillac
Oh boys I wanna see it for real
I wanna ride in Geronimo's automobile
Take me, take me, take me back
I wanna ride in Geronimo's [Cadillac]

Warden, Warden, don't you know
The prisoners 'aint got no place to go
It took ol' Geronimo by storm
They took the badges from his uniform
Jesus told me and I believe it's true
The redmen are in the sunset too
They stole their land and they won't give it back
And they sent Geronimo a Cadillac

Oh boys take me back
I wanna ride in Geronimo's Cadillac
Oh boys I wanna see it for real
I wanna ride in Geronimo's automobile
Take me, take me, take me back
I wanna ride in Geronimo's [Cadillac]

They put Geronimo in jail down South
Where he couldn't look a gift horse in a mouth
Sergeant, Sergeant don't you feel
There's something wrong with your automobile
Warden, Warden, listen to me
Be brave and set Geronimo free
Governor, Governor, 'aint it strange
You never see a car on the Indian range

Oh boys take me back
I wanna ride in Geronimo's Cadillac
Oh boys I wanna see it for real
I wanna ride in Geronimo's automobile
Take me, take me, take me back
I wanna ride in Geronimo's [Cadillac]

From our bulging "Wish I'd Thought Of It First" Files:

"Should a 320 lb man advise us on the evils of overconsumption? Should the resident of a million-dollar apartment claim to be the poster-boy of the working class? Should a person who thought Enron was a great investment, Nader would win, and North Korea's Kim Jong was changing for the better, advise us on ANYTHING?"

Hmmm, good question. Let's ask him.... oh, $#!‡, he's got me on hold. I just hate when that happens!!!

Monday, May 24, 2004

Whose Battlefield Is It Anyway?

There is a popular assumption among Catholics in America, that when a member of the Kennedy family speaks on matters of faith, they are well-informed. Ms Victoria Reggie Kennedy, wife of Senator Edward Kennedy (who keeps getting re-elected in spite of everything), is not.

In an opinion piece in yesterday's Washington Post, she displays her militant naivete for all the world to see:

"As a Catholic, I am deeply saddened and concerned by the threatened denial of Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians. This course of action takes both the church and political discourse in this country to a new and dangerous place, and I urge that it be rejected... So, then, what is the alleged violation of church law that would subject some politicians to de facto excommunication? Essentially, proponents of this harsh penalty make the flawed and intellectually dishonest argument that a vote not to criminalize abortion is the moral and church law equivalent of the act of abortion itself."

Not saddened enough, I suspect.

I could go on, but there are so many mistakes in these two paragraphs alone. She knows full well the "alleged violation of church law" is cooperation in grave sin, which is not "intellectually dishonest," but is indeed "equivalent of the act." Furthermore, the Church has neverbeen shy about saying who can and cannot receive communion. The beginning is a good place to start:

"For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; but since we are judged by (the) Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world." (1 Cor 11: 23-32)

It seems there weren't any Kennedys around to set Saint Paul straight, when he had the unmitigated gall to speak on behalf of Mother Church in this way. In the two millenia since, She has muddled through somehow.

And She will keep on muddling through, long after this would-be dynasty has fallen.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Dateline Arlington: Cicada Madness Moves Up Food Chain

"According to local experts, Maryland and Virginia's common red squirrel has taken a liking to cicadas, and that has led to at least two incidents of squirrels gaining a taste for flesh instead of their usual diet of nuts and other vegetation...."

I don't know about you, but I'm leaving plenty of nuts and berries out tonight.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

In order to keep a true perspective of one's importance...

...everyone should have a dog that worships him, and a cat that will ignore him.

Dateline Cincinnati: Cicada Watchers on the Alert

One summer, when I was about eleven, I was in a neighbor's front yard, when a cicada attacked me. Well, actually, he tried to land on my neck, thinking it was a tree stump I suppose. Now, the seventeen-year cycle wasn't due to arrive until I was fifteen, so this must have been one of those lesser-known varieties that hatch a few years early. That would explain a lot.

Only now do I learn that I was not alone. And only in Cincinnati, my old stomping ground, could a bunch of yahoos with time on their hands come up with something like this:

"Welcome to Cicadaville.com!... You have taken the first step toward saving yourself!  We are the world's premier information source about the Cicada.  Our mission  is to reveal the deadly truth about Cicadas so you can arm yourself and your family against these vicious predators. Most of the information about the cicada in the media is false. Only at Cicadaville.com can you learn the real truth..."

...and it's about time, too. I just might take an extended weekend to go back for one of those cicada parties. I hear they can be sauteed and taste just like asparagus.

That'll show 'em who's on top of the food chain!

"Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking in the sky? Wait until next Sunday, like everyone else. Now, GET BACK TO WORK!!!" (Acts 1:11, Rehashed Standard Version)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Notre Dame Throws The "Ave Maria Pass"

Plans by a wealthy entrepreneur to build a new university in Florida are under intense criticism, within the very circles from which enthusiastic support might otherwise be sought.

Ave Maria College was established in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1998, through the philanthropy of former Domino's Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan, as an orthodox alternative to many of the "Catholic" institutions of higher learning today. More recently, plans were announced to move the main campus to Naples, Florida, where a complete university would be constructed, accompanied by a town, and a chapel to serve both.

It is the chapel that has caught the most attention:

"[T]he 60,000-square-foot glass-skinned church is set to be the nation's largest. Unfortunately, the design unveiled by school officials is an impractical eyesore... Although its floor plan is vaguely reminiscent of a basilica-style church, the unsightly structure otherwise breaks with the history and tradition of Catholic church architecture while tipping its hat to some of the more avant-garde Protestant productions of recent decades... it consciously avoids any connection to the rich Spanish mission style so common to Florida for several centuries... [and] is inconsistent with Ave Maria's reputation for embracing authentic Catholic culture and tradition..."

So writes Michael Rose, editor of Cruxnews.com, and author of an excellent book on Catholic church architecture, Ugly As Sin.

Personally, I have reviewed the plans announced by Ave Maria for the campus and the town. Michael is right about the chapel, of course, but even the town itself is uninspiring; basically prolonging the suburban model that has contributed to the cultural excess of postwar America up until the present day. The institution that would bill itself as "the Notre Dame of the South" could end up being one more example of the "cultural Calvinism" that plagues American Catholicism.

It has even been reported that one of the three golf courses planned for the development will be reserved for the more wealthy benefactors.

Just what the world needs for spreading the gospel -- a Catholic country club.

Thankfully, three students from the other Notre Dame -- you know, the one with the kick-@$$ football team -- have come up with an alternative:

"Matthew Enquist, Ryan Nicholson, and John Doyle are undergraduate thesis students in Notre Dame's School of Architecture. In the final year of the five-year program students work on detailed plans for a hypothetical project of their own choosing... Working under Professor Thomas Gordon Smith, the students also designed three major buildings for the Naples campus... 'Our program was to develop an integrated campus and town master plan,' explained Enquist, 'and then to develop three iconic buildings of this university town -- the library, the civic center, and the church.'"

In other words, more along the lines of what urban planners call "traditional neighborhood design" (TND), where you don't need a car to get anywhere and everywhere, and where, unlike most American suburbs, conditions are more conducive to having daily contact with one's neighbors.

In our next installment, we will review the three components of chapel, campus, and town, in more detail. Stay tuned...

Farewell to the Original Metrosexual

"Of all his audiences, opera fans may have realized Randall's true love. He was a commentator on PBS' Live From Lincoln Center and would sing from La Traviata to calm his baby daughter. He once said, 'I love classical music with the same passion with which I despise rock 'n' roll.'"

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

New Business

At the start of any given weekday, there are about a half dozen or so weblogs that I check regularly. One of them is Dappled Things, authored by Father James "Don Jim" Tucker, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. Today he announces the latest update to his annotated guide entitled Index: Best of Dappled Things. Now guys like me who can't get enough light reading for the subway, will have plenty of articles to print-out for further enlightenment. I'll be sure to refer to this site often, and recommend the same to others.

Old Business

The cards and letters keep pouring in to the MWBH mail room on the subject of "bein' a good mate." This one comes from Kenneth Allen, author of the weblog Naptio Divina:

"It's interesting that some of your commenters spoke of the 'rugged individualism' of the American male. I've heard (well, ok, I knew already) that Thoreau was a big proponent of that, as was Emerson... however, ...Thoreau lived in alone and individuallistically the midst of what is basically a country club setting, off of an inheritance, and was it the Alcott sisters (?) who brought him his meals regulalry? Whoever it was who lived nearby as he lived his idyllic, ruggedly individualistic existence... Which of course relied heavily on the community with which he was associated... A more interesting person to study would be Josiah Royce, who speaks of communities and the way we need to be fully integrated not only as individuals, but within the communities to which we belong... He spoke prophetically on American thought when he claimed some 100 years ago, that if we kept on the path of rugged indiviualism, the family would disintegrate, Americans would no longer want to pay taxes... etc..."

Actually, Ken, I'm not even sure anyone ever wanted to pay taxes. And unless I'm mistaken (It can happen!), even in the USA, the Federal income tax was only implemented in 1906.

By the way, folks, Ken is also a seminarian from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Let's give him an authentic Cajun cheer as he prepares for ordination:

"Gimme an I!"

"I!"

"Gimme an E!"

"E!"

"What's that spell?"

"ai-YEEEEEEE!"


(Whew!) I've been meaning to get into the subject of community for some time now. But it's a big subject for me, and my writing lately tends to be in small doses. Stay tuned on this one.

My first order of business today...

...is to wish the Pope a happy birthday. All together now:

"Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Lolek*,
Happy birthday to you!"


*The nickname by which his close friends still address him. Roughly translated from Polish as "Charlie."

Monday, May 17, 2004

The Morning After

This past weekend was busy enough. I was fortunate to stumble across a 1946 Orpheum archtop guitar at a yard sale, for under $200. While I hadn't planned on it, I have been hoping to get into more jazz and swing styles of playing, for which an archtop is well-suited, and I couldn't pass this up. I'll probably end up spending the same amount again on fixing it up. But the result will be a fine vintage instrument that could sell on eBay for $1000 easily. (That is to say, I could, but I won't.) Sunday found me in Baltimore, at a house party, where a jam session gave me a chance to try out a banjo-uke. I got one a few months ago that I was meaning to re-string and use for early jazz and jug band-type stuff. I think it's worth a shot.

In other news, my post on male friendship got quite a response, most of it from Mark Shea's more-famous-not-to-mention-vastly-superior weblog, Catholic and Enjoying It. Ah, but who am I to compete with such a megastar as Mark? You can read the comments yourself. Meanwhile, within my humble cyber-abode, is one of my favorites, from Shan, a correspondent in Australia:

"G'day. In Australia we make a big fuss about mateship, which extends beyond friendship into sacrifice. The thing is, every Aussie is supposed to be a good mate, take it on the chin, look out for your mates and they'll look out for you. So you can be mates with someone you don't know that well. (It comes from the ANZAC experience at Gallipoli in WWI)... Sometimes mates are friends, sometimes they're not... At the school where I teach, my students often describe 2 boys being friends as gay, which is sad, but there's even a move away from being mates, which is even sadder. Even the appearance of friendship is becoming an unacceptable thing... Maybe we need a theology of friendship?"

Good point, Shan. Maybe we do. There's a great book from Sophia Institute on friendship, but I can't seem to find it at this time. Stay tuned on this one.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

"If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." (President Harry Truman)

I've mentioned earlier at this weblog that my son Paul is a recovering alcoholic, at the ripe young age of eighteen. Today is the second anniversary of his "sobriety," the day he stopped drinking. (Since Paul is a Byzantine Catholic, he receives communion under both species. The amount is miniscule, and has not been a problem for him. Besides, as a believing Catholic, the matter in question is no longer wine anyway, but that's another story.) Giving up a life of drinking can cost you some of your friends; in this case, all your old drinking buddies, at least until they too come around. And yet, Paul has been fortunate in having surrounded himself with a group of loyal and close friends who themselves are also in recovery. Some are successful in their professions, while others are unemployed, or even on the edge of homelessness. But all share a common bond.

While some of this circle of friends are female, the great majority are male. I mention this particular fact, in light of a fascinating article (not to mention long overdue) in this month's issue of Catholic World Report. "The Friendship-Deficit Syndrome" was written by Father C John McCloskey III, Director of the Catholic Information Center here in Washington. It begins with an anectode from a recent trip to Rome:

"...I went out to lunch in the Piazza Navona... There was a group of seven or eight Italian men who were eating, drinking vino rosso, and engaging in boisterous conversation, clearly enjoying themselves. I got the impression that this was not a singular event but rather one of frequent meetings of long-time close friends... [U]pon reflection in the weeks afterward, I realized that the strangeness I felt on witnessing that scene came about because I rarely, if ever, encounter similar scenes in my own country..."

In lamenting the loss of authentic male friendship in American society (except for drinking or sporting events, where the focus is the activity as opposed to fellowship itself), the good Father has hit upon an important point, and one which has long been of concern to me. I've lived in Washington for nearly a quarter-century now. For most of that time, I've always said, that I was lucky if the best friends I ever had here return my phone calls within a few days, if at all. If that sounds very sad, it is because it is. Not only for me, but for those whom I might identify as friends. When I serve at the missa solemnis at Old St Mary's downtown every month, it may be the only regular occasion of male cameraderie that I have. Even though I don't know most of them very well, I am often disappointed when, after serving for a wedding of one of my fellow-knights of the altar, they disappear from the sacristy for good.

Father McCloskey blames much of this detachment on the Protestant mentality of individualism that pervades American society, as opposed to much of Europe. But I would go farther than that, to blame the phenomenon of suburbanism that has dominated the American landscape since the mid-20th century. I would invite the good Father to visit a few night-spots around Washington early in the evening, such as those in Arlington, Virginia, along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor where the Orange Line runs. Not all of them are on the make, and not all of them are gay.

Historically, male bonding was a part of being male. The friendships of men would be as important as the relationships with their wives, if not more so. A soldier in battle would have a comrade, known as his "paraclete," or protector, who would be the one to watch his back, while he watched his. This arrangement was often preceeded by a blood oath (which continues today in the impromptu "blood brother" ceremony among neighborhood boys). Even the Church recognized its significance, citing the deep friendship between David and Jonathon. There is even evidence of a blessing ceremony for such friendships. The most famous of them was that of Sergius and Bacchus, two Roman soldiers of the third century, who were discovered to be Christians and so received the crown of martyrdom. Proponents of the "gay lifestyle" have highjacked this friendship, attributing homosexual overtones to their relationship, in a feeble attempt to justify same-sex unions being blessed by the Church. A case in point is Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, a book by John Boswell, which lays claim to the approval of such unions by the Church during the height of the Byzantine Empire.

Unfortunately, Boswell neglects to mention that the penalty for sodomy at that time was castration.

This over-attachment of sex to friendship clouds the true significance of male bonding (especially for those who struggle with same-sex attraction), to the point of dissuading some men from stepping outside their shells altogether. I cannot begin to do justice to Father McCloskey's writing, so I invite the readers of MWBH to obtain a copy of CWR this month -- not only men, but the women in their lives.

I'm using this occasion to inaugurate the "comments" feature on MWBH.

Maybe I'll find out if anyone's listening.

Memo to Don Jim

What part of Kentucky did you say you were from again? People assume West Virginia is populated entirely with mountain-born people. "Hillbillies," if you will. This is less true in the northern part of the state, which is more urban and industrial, and was settled less by Scotch-Irish, and more by Italian, Czech, and other Central/Eastern Europeans (and so is more Catholic than the southern part of the state).

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

MWBH has left the building!

I'll be out of the office tomorrow.

Just in time too. In between assignments, I've been looking on eBay at all those beautiful musical instruments I could have for my very own. I've also thought of putting more practice time into the ones I already have. (Duh!) At this point, I play guitar and mountain banjo with proficiency, but can also fake my way through the autoharp, bass fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, pennywhistle, and (when nobody's watching) piano accordion. They take up most of the space in one closet. Thank God I don't have a grand piano.

Or a set of bagpipes.

Just when you thought America was The Great Satan after all...

...it appears a few Iraqis are still running loose enough to meet our match:

"CAIRO (AP) -- A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site showed the beheading of an American civilian in Iraq, and said the execution was carried out by an al-Qaeda affiliated group to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners..."

The point? Evil doesn't take sides, and at least we as a nation, founded on Judeo-Christian principles, show genuine remorse and a desire to repair a situation that got way out of hand. Meanwhile, has the Red Cross had any luck getting Islamic nations to refrain from similar cruelties?

Nah, didn't think so.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Random Thoughts As The Sun Comes Out

The press is getting excited about Iraqi prisoners and others having been inhumanely treated at the camp at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. It has already been a problem at USA-occupied "Gitmo Bay" on the coast of Cuba for over a year. I guess we were too busy wrapping ourselves in the flag to notice. I'm as patriotic as the next guy, but treating men like animals is NOT the American way; I don't care who does it, or to whom. Fortunately, everybody all over the world still wants to come here. Makes you wonder why they hate us anyway.

Meanwhile, everyone with enough time on their hands is waxing philosophical over the end of the TV sitcom "Friends." I never got that involved in it. Maybe it's because... well, IT'S NOT REAL LIFE, PEOPLE!!! You've got six really good-looking, well-groomed pretty people falling in and out of love, or the sack, or whatever. I gave up on watching "Frasier" after I got tired of seeing Kelsey Grammer's character make such a jack@$$ of himself. It was actually painful to watch a guy my age act that way.

I can do that on my own in real life.

I've actually been going out dancing less in the last month or so. Truth is, I got spoiled. "Sal" is the perfect dance partner, and now she's out in California, for some extended work assignment or visiting relatives or God-knows-what-all, due to return during the summer. What with all the WW2 reunions and USO benefit shindigs we've got coming down the pike this summer, I might just break down and send her a one-way ticket back here. (Does that sound desperate to you? Oh, never mind.)

Meanwhile, it's amazing how much you can accumulate if you stay at one address long enough. I've been at the basement studio in North Arlington for ten years come this August. That's the longest I've ever been at one address, other than where I grew up in Ohio. So tonight (that's Friday night, kids!), rather than paint the town, I'll be going through the closets and separating the wheat from the chaff, while the TV is tuned to more quality programs like ABC's "Joan of Arcadia," or damn near anything from The History Channel.

This could go well into the night (when they run "The X-Files" in syndication), and into Saturday morning.

Till then...

Memo to Cardinal McCarrick: So much for the Comfort Zone!

Hey, Your Immenseness, remember this one?

"Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C. made this statement on April 27, 2004, concerning Catholic politicians who openly support legalized abortion: 'I have not gotten to the stage where I’m comfortable in denying the Eucharist.'"

Well, you gotta admit, you had it coming:

"Cardinal McCarrick: Are You Comfortable Now?"

(Adobe Acrobat Reader required for viewing; trust me, it's worth it.)

"...if it ain't got that certain je ne sais quoi!" (-- Peter Schickele)

Last night's class was worth it. Over the years, I've picked up a few bad habits, and Donna is ever so charming as she points them out -- over and over again. (Thanks, hon, I needed that!) There's something about doing just enough with the hand, a certain movement, to lead the partner on her way, to make her look and feel... special! That's what the gentleman's gotta do, ya know?

But the big news is that I may have found the mandolin I've been waiting years for -- a Gibson F-4. Okay, an Ibenez F-4 made to look like a Gibson before Gibson sued Ibenez. I just hope I can pull this off. If not, maybe another one will come along eventually. With my all-zydeco-all-the-time dance streak taking a nose dive, maybe it's time to try life on the other side of the speakers. Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 06, 2004

"It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that..."

I've been taking swing dance classes almost continually since September, from Tom and Debra, the king and queen of swing in the DC area. (At least that's what they tell me.) Their classes are always packed, and those who take the later advanced class often take it over again in case they missed something the first time. At least that's how it was with me. Until recently.

You see, these two swing kids don't settle for the garden-variety East Coast "six-count" style, nosiree Bob! They teach the Lindy Hop, made popular at the Savoy Ballroom in the 1930s. It's a great style of swing, if you got yourself a partner who knows it too. I'm not always so lucky. (That's right, girls, even me.) But give me a few more six-count moves under my belt (or my feet, as the case may be), and I can make any woman make me look like a much better dancer than I really am. So I'm taking a different approach this month, out at Glen Echo Park. Donna Barker has been teaching for a long time, and I remember her from my contradancing days...

"7 - 8 pm - Intermediate Swing: Building on the basic concepts, dancers will experiment with new footwork patterns and more advanced 6-count moves. Additionally, students will learn 8-count moves and how to move between the two figures. Other emphasis on musical interpretation, improving connection and building repertoire..."

Yeah, that's the ticket. Maybe four Thursdays in May should tide me over until I'm ready to face Tom and Debra heading into new and uncharted dance frontiers (whew!). In the meantime, I should be ready in time for Memorial Day weekend, when we all go down to the Mall and relive the 1940s with "The Greatest Generation."

So I'll just get my dancin' shoes out again, and see if I've still got it -- whatever "it" is.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Red Moon Rising

There was a lunar eclipse last night. This occurs when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in a near-perfect line in space. The effect is that of a dim reddish-brown Moon climbing slowly above the horizon. While it was most visible in the British Isles, it could also be seen here on the Mid-Altantic Coast of the USA.

There are those who say that a lunar eclipse is a sign of warning:

"Then I watched while he broke open the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun turned as black as dark sackcloth, and the whole moon became like blood." (Revelation 6:12)

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but this is going to be one of those years when life turns a big corner.

My son graduates from high school. His mother heads off into the sunset (in other words, Cleveland), with her new husband, leaving our son without a place to stay beginning in July. And for my own part, after nearly fourteen years of living in a series of studio and basement apartments, it is high time to move above ground, and to return to owning a home again.

I swore I'd never return to the suburbs, but Paul insists he'd like to stay in the area just west of the Beltway. I hope he likes living out of his car, because until I get set up, he may have to do that to get his wish.

As to my own wishes, my next home will be a two- or three-bedroom townhouse -- with a basement in the case of the former -- to be located not far from where I am now, close to public transportation, and within walking distance of shopping. If I'm lucky, I'll have an end unit with a fireplace. And if there's a basement, it will be a walk-out.

It's a lot to handle all at once, on top of straightening out my taxes for the last year, or two. The way I work things, I handle one crisis at a time, and move on to the next. Unless it's done on a computer, I'm not too good at multi-tasking.

All this in pursuit of the simple life. For me, a home is a sanctuary, a place to retreat and escape from the world. It is a place large enough to incorporate all my interests, yet small enough to care for on my own. I don't need a big yard, just a private haven in which to rest, to entertain a few friends, and maybe grow a kitchen garden.

All this in pursuit of the simple life. Stay tuned...

THIS JUST IN: Cinco de Mayo!!

Like Dom Jim says, in "El Norte," the Fifth of May is mainly an excuse to drink Coronas. They don't make nearly as big a deal of it in Mexico. Aside from that, the good Padre's inner monarchist gives us a unique spin on the tale.