Wednesday, April 30, 2003

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

According to the latest edition of the American Journal of Public Health:

"At every age, American males have poorer health and a higher death rate than their female counterparts, says David R. Williams, a senior research scientist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research... If you take the 15 leading causes of death in the United States, men come in first in all but one, Alzheimer's disease. Their death rates are at least twice as high as women for suicide, homicide, cirrhosis of the liver, and accidents.

"Those numbers hint that there are men who are not following the rules of healthy, lawful behavior, Williams acknowledges. More important, he says, is that the American picture of the macho man leads to destructive behavior.

"'A good example is how men respond to stress,' he says. 'Women are more likely than men to seek social support, particularly from other women. Men are more likely to believe that any expression of distress shows their susceptibility, so they are more likely to turn to substances...'"

Great news, huh?

Now that spring is here, and a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of -- well, the usual -- we'll be taking an occasional look at relationship issues. Not just romantic ones, and not just male/female interaction. Although that will be most of it.

Most important, " real demand, Williams says, is that 'we need a new definition of masculinity that includes greater responsibility for oneself.'"

In other words, men still need their mommies. (Just in time for Mother's Day.) Of course, women still go after the bad boys who remind them of their workaholic alcoholic fathers. Don't ask me which is worse.

I figure, what the hell, if Thomas Aquinas can be dubbed an expert on sexual morality for over a millennia, then a divorced over-aged party animal can take a stab at the periphery of the subject.

Miss Bonnaci, eat your heart out!

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Which 20th Century Pope Am I?

John Paul II

"You are Pope John Paul II. You are a force to be reckoned with."

(I always thought so.)

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, April 28, 2003

The Last Few Days

The weekend started early, with L'il Malcolm and the Houserockers getting down to it at The Surf Club in Hyattsville. (Be honest now, does it look like I'm losing weight?) Friday night was spent at home. I had to do laundry sooner or later.

Saturday morning I attended a First Communion party for a young man who shares the bounty of my gigantic basket in a church basement every Easter Sunday. I had to bring a present, of course. So I pulled out a statue of the Little Infant of Prague, hand-carved in the Philippines (where he is known as "Santo Nino"), put it in a red velvet bag, and called it a day.

That night I met my friend "Naomi" at Glen Echo Park (That's her in the picture. Nice hair, huh?) for an evening of salsa and marengae. I was really at the top of my form, if I do say so. Once I get over the preoccupation to emulate all the ballroom techniques (that to which my Puerto Rican friend Maria disdains as "gringo salsa"), and concentrate on the essence of the genre itself, like the Latinos learn on the streets, I do alright for myself. Even so, Keith Givens is the best dance instructor of any genre that I've ever met.

That morning, I awoke late, and went off to Georgetown, my old neighborhood, for a Mass at my former parish there. They had a dozen or so students for their First Communion. There was the usual omission of male pronouns for God the Father in certain strategic locations. (Even after the archbishop came down on them a few years ago, for all manner of minutiae, they still don't get it.)

On the other hand, I was spared the emphasis on "Divine Mercy Sunday," a recently added feast day for the Sunday after Easter, preceeded by its accompanying novena, all of which strikes me as totally out of character with the Paschal season. Fankly, I really don't care what Sister Faustina thinks she heard Jesus saying. We should be spending the Octave of Easter singing Alleluias, not moaning a dreary novena about "His sorrowful passion."

That was the previous week, remember? Christ is risen...dammit!

I think "Divine Mercy Sunday" should be moved to the Fifth Sunday of Lent, when we traditionally began "Passiontide" with the veiling of statues. The novena would begin, not end, on that day, and would end the day before Maundy Wednesday, leading right into the Triduum. Thus a devotional practice, in keeping with the spirit and letter of Vatican II, would derive itself from true character of sacred worship and the liturgical year -- as opposed to the other way around.

I'd raise a stink with the Pope about this, if I ever thought he answered his own mail.

Anyway, I was still too worn out last night to join L'il Malcolm at the Cat's Eye Pub in Baltimore, for one last round of jammin.' So after an afternoon of cajun and waltz with Jim Briley and the Riverdale Ramblers, we stopped at Au Pied du Cochon (known among Georgetowners as "The Pig") for a light supper, then on home to retire.

This week should be relatively quiet. One or two projects to complete at work, and a possible dance in Philadelphia this Friday. Meanwhile, I'm working on a book to be published this summer, the title of which is volksrituell. More on that later.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Another Road to Baltimore

I never quite fit in at any parish. My next one may be no different.

But I hope to move to Baltimore in two years, before the housing prices go through the roof, like everywhere else. I am looking for a place where the Mass is reverently celebrated, in a traditional fashion, without being stodgy about it. At the same time, it would also have a committment to social justice and related issues. Such a combination, outside the usual conservative/liberal rut, was the vision of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement.

I may have found the place. Saint Benedict in Baltimore is staffed by Benedictine priests from the Archabbey of Saint Vincent in Latrobe PA, where my mother's cousin is a Brother, and who managed the bookstore of adjoining Saint Vincent College for many years. The pastor is Father Paschal, whom I've met before. The parish church has a bookstore, and a chapter of Oblates.

I only wish I could live nearby. One look at the neighborhood, and I wonder if it's ripe for gentrification just yet.

Nah. Maybe not. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 23, 2003


Last night I headed up to the "City of Sisterly Love." Now, driving three hours for a three hour house party doesn't sound like it's worth it -- unless, of course, you get to play with the band. That's part of it anyway. That, and the dance crowd in Philly. Once more, L'il Malcolm was in good form, and I learned a few more tricks about playing with a band. (And to whoever it was who suggested I could accomplish the same by playing along with a CD, who are you trying to kid?) As hard as it is to believe, I drove back to DC after the dance. I went for part of the route on US 40, to avoid the trucks, and stop at an all-night diner for a very early breakfast.

Ah, life on the road.

Maybe I'll stay home tonight, I dunno yet. There's dancing for the next five nights. I should rest up maybe.

Or maybe...

Go for a walk!

The 900 block of North Cleveland Street in Arlington, was the last block in the neighborhood to get sidewalks, just last year. This after a petition drive five years earlier spearheaded by my landlady. According to this report in today's USA Today, others aren't so lucky:

"Why don't Americans walk anywhere?

"Old answer: They're lazy.

"New answer: They can't.

"There is no sidewalk outside the front door, school is 5 miles away, and there's a six-lane highway between home and the supermarket."

We saw this coming, you know? Remember watching The Jetsons when we were kids?

Uh-huh. My point exactly.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Bright (???) Monday

After a sunny and mild Easter Sunday, the Monday following is a proverbial cloudy one.

I spent the midday of Good Friday at Old St Mary's in downtown DC, commemorating the Death on the Cross. It seems Father Conway wasn't up to carrying the cross down the aisle himself, so the job fell to me, along with singing the proclamation:

"This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Savior of the world."

I wasn't too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Saturday was spent preparing my Easter basket, an annual ritual held over from my earlier life being married to a Byzantine Catholic. That evening, a friend and I went to see Donna the Buffalo at the State Theatre in Falls Church. A good time was had by all.

Come Sunday morning, I brought my basket full of ham, cheese, Easter bread, goat's milk butter, and eggs, to St Mary's that morning. After being blessed by the deacon, I engaged in my annual ritual of sharing the good with the children who gathered in the church basement for the coffee hour. I visited the All Saints Sisters in Catonsville that afternoon, where I dropped off a basket for them. The rest of the day was without incident.

And now, Kathy Shaidle is calling for a moratorium on quoting certain writers of note. Personally, I would just as soon quote Mark Shea, especially now that he is back in the blogosphere.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Easter Carol

Spring bursts today,
For Christ is ris'n and all the earth's at play.

Flash forth, thou Sun,
The rain is over and gone, its work is done.

Winter is past,
Sweet Spring is come at last, is come at last.

Bud, Fig and Vine,
Bud, Olive, fat with fruit and oil! and wine

Break forth this morn
In roses, thou but yesterday a Thorn.

Uplift thy head
O pure white Lily through the winter dead.

Beside your dams
Leap and rejoice, you merry-making Lambs.

All Herds and Flocks
Rejoice, all beasts of thickets and of rocks.

Sing, creatures, sing,
Angels and Men and Birds and everything.

-- Christina Rossetti (submitted courtesy of Julianne Loesch Wiley)

Thursday, April 17, 2003

"Adoramus te Christe, et benedictimus tibi..."

"...qui a per sanctam crucem tuam, redemisti mundum."

For about 72 hours, the Catholic world pauses from the routine of everyday life.

On the morning of Holy Thursday, priests gather around their bishop, to renew their fidelity, and receive the sacred oils to be used for the coming year. That evening, the faithful will gather around their priests, to remember the institution of the Eucharist, and the prelude to the events of the following day.

For it is on that day, Good Friday, from noon to three in the afternoon, that the cross is venerated, and He who hung upon it is remembered.

That single event, of all events in human history, transcends all time and space.

It is just that single moment that is seen again and again, every time a priest of Mother Church utters those words "Hoc est enim corpus meum." This is My Body. The same is done with the chalice. "Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei." This is the Cup of My Blood.

The faithful are witness to the transformation of substance, from mere bread and wine, to the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ Himself. Saint Augustine once wrote that a priest momentarily stopped aging during the moment of the act of Consecration itself. As the universe itself remembers, so we remember as well. Christ yesterday, today, and forever.

The next day, Holy Saturday, is a day of waiting. Waiting for the unseen events that were foretold, waiting for the coming of night, the blessing of the fire, the reading of the events that lead to the joyous proclamation: CHRISTUS RESURREXIT! Christ is risen! The sun rises on Easter morning, and the Great Fast has ended. The faithful continue to celebrate, even as spring in the Northern Hemisphere cries out to the heavens with new life, for the next forty days.

In what other system of belief, does a god die, then raise himself from the dead to life? It is the Resurrection, of all beliefs in Christianity, that has never been solemnly defined by the Church, as even She is not competent to do so. No living mortal actually saw what happened. Even the apostles themselves tell us less the what of those events, than the why of them. It was during that laying in the tomb, that Death was cast into defeat, and Life emerged victorious. In the two millennia since this unseen act, the rivers of blood have been shed for the crown of martyrdom. The suffering of a Chosen People, the warnings of the Prophets, the clashing of armies and conquest of nations, the changing of the very fabric of civilization itself -- all of human history hinges upon the moment on the cross, and the passing from Death to Life.

As a child, I remember the house becoming quiet during the three hours on Friday. If we did nothing else, our very comings and goings were permeated by that remembrance. In the city of Cincinnati, since the days of the Civil War, devout Catholics would pray the rosary on the steps leading from the Ohio River, on up to Mount Adams, to the Church of the Immaculata, "St Mary's of the Steps."

From now until Sunday, there will be no entries in this journal. Preparations will be underway to greet the day the Lord has made.

"We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, for by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world."

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

"Betty when you call me, you can call me Al!" (or "Roll over, Descartes, tell King Gustav the news!")

Earlier this year, there was a buzz in the blogosphere (I can't remember where) about Einstein's theory of evolution being obsolete. The heir-apparent to explaining the nature of the universe was reported to be something called "the vortex theory." The news was published on a website called, but the link isn't working as this is being written.

"Einstein was a genius
As smart as he could be.
He wrote one equation every day.
On Mondays he wrote three,
On Mondays he wrote three."

Nevertheless, it seems as good a time as any for a fitting tribute to Einstein:

"Albert dance around, Albert be profound,
Albert let your hair stick out, and your socks hang down.
Albert dance around, Albert be profound,
Albert let your hair stick out, and your socks hang down."

The above are the first verse and chorus of "Einstein the Genius" by Henry Jankiewicz, for the Kicking Mule label.

"A man got in a spaceship
and flew a million miles.
He busted through the speed of light
And he came back a child,
Yes, he came back a child."

An audio sample by Ron Sowell for a children's album can be found by entering into Quick Time or other player.

"A wave and a particle
Were walking side by side.
One to the other said
Which one of us am I?
Which one of us am I?"

Of course, I first heard the tune several years ago on West Virginia Public Radio's "Mountain Stage," performed by a band of the Mountain State known as Stewed Mulligan. I'm going to get that CD real soon so I can play it on the banjo for my parish's annual "no-talent night."

"Albert played the fiddle.
He loved to shout and sing.
Now if that ain't genius,
Well, that ain't anything.
No, that ain't anything."

I can't argue with reasoning like that, can you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

A Pre-Easter Chain Letter

After last week, hell, I'll try anything. So pay attention:

> >
> >
> >
> > CASE 1:
> >
> > Kelly Seedy had one wish, for her boyfriend of three years, David
> > Marsden, to propose to her. Then one day when she was out to lunch,
> > David proposed! She accepted. But she then had to leave because
> > she had a meeting in 20 min. When she got back to her office
> > she noticed on her computer she had e-mail. She checked it, the usual
> > stuff from friends, but then she saw one that had never seen before. It
> > was this very letter. She simply deleted it, without reading it. BIG
> > MISTAKE!! Later that evening she received a call from the local police.
> > It was regarding David. He had been in an accident with an 18-wheeler,
> > he did not survive.
> >
> > CASE 2:
> >
> > Take Katie Robbenson. She received this letter and being the believer
> > that she was sent it off to a few of her friends, but did not have enough
> > to send to the full 10 that you must. Three days later she went to a
> > Masquerade ball. Later that night when she left to get to her car to go
> > home, she was killed on the spot by a hit and run drunk driver.
> >
> > CASE 3:
> >
> > Richard S. Willis sent this letter out within 45 minutes of reading
> > it. Not even 4 hours later walking along the street to his new job
> > interview, with a really big company, when he ran into Cynthia Bell,
> > his secret love of 5 years. Cynthia came up to him and told him of her
> > passionate crush on him that she had for 2 years. Three days later he
> > proposed to her and they were married. They are still married
> > to this day and have three children.
> >
> > This is the letter:
> >
> > Around the corner I have a friend,
> > In this great city that has no end,
> > Yet the days go by, and the weeks rush on,
> > And before I know it a year has gone.
> > And I never see my old friends face,
> > For life is a swift and terrible race,
> > He knows I like him just as well,
> > As in the days when I rang his bell,
> > And he rang mine if, we were younger then,
> > And now we are busy, tired men.
> > Tired of playing a foolish game,
> > Tired of trying to make a name.
> > Tomorrow; I say, I will call on Jim
> > Just to show I am thinking of him.
> > But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
> > And distance between us grows and grows.
> > Around the corner! - yet miles away,
> > Here's a telegram sir, Jim died today.
> > And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
> > Around the corner, a vanished friend.
> >
> > Remember to always say what you mean. If you love someone -tell them.
> > Don't be afraid to express yourself. Reach out and tell someone what
> > they mean to you, because When you decide that it is the right time,
> > it might be too late.
> >
> > Seize the day, Never have regrets. Most importantly stay close to your
> > friends and family, for They have helped make you the person you are
> > today.

> >
> > You must send this on within 3 hours, after reading the letter, to 10
> > different people.
> >
> > If you do this you will receive unbelievably good luck in love. The
> > person you are most attracted to will soon return your feelings.
> >
> > If you do not, bad luck will rear it's ugly head.
> >
> >
> > The more people you send this to, the better luck you will have.

Ten people. That's about my entire readership, counting my usual correspondents, and my kid sister (and my parents when she prints out the good stuff for them). This oughta do it.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Opening Day: A Postscript

From the weblog Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor, in an entry dated April 5, we get this fitting tribute to the first day of baseball in Cincinnati:

Opening Day, Cincinnati Style

Pageantry tossed from the skies passed
Down from Abner to present she holds
the ancient lineage long the strands
of confetti that reign down on this
her feast and followers of the world's eldest
know that Tradition is darned in our socks
Inbred in our ground balls.
That Was The Week That Was

The past week was one of highs and lows for me personally, not to mention the planet in general. Did the others align all at once and I didn't hear about it?

The war in Iraq is over. Sort of. Now the Iraqi people get to be their own! They ransack government offices and steal trucks from pubic works departments, then wonder why there's no water or electricity. The soldiers are telling them, "Do we look like policemen to you?" (Well, geewhiz, Sarge! Compared to nothing at all... duhhhh, yes, you do! Must be the guns and the uniforms.) Meanwhile, the National Museum has been ransacked. Five millennia of heritage has been completely destroyed. Unless it appears on eBay. ATTENTION IRAQI-AMERICANS: This is a call to all enterprising expatriates of the land of Babylon, with time and money on their hands. If you outbid the bejeezes out of everybody and get the goods back, you can return to the motherland as national heroes, maybe after getting a tax write-off here in the good old US of A. Just a thought.

The weather in the Middle Atlantic region went from light snow and freezing nights to the sunny seventies, all in just a few days. My, um, condition, suffered a temporary setback, and I was in bed for a day or two. Then my son called in midweek and I had to intermediate a domestic incident (a polite term for the boy's mother). To add to that, I got a letter from her attorney reminding me, once again, that due to certain revisions in the Code of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the settlement we agreed to twelve years ago was barely worth the paper upon which it was written. (Don't ask.)

I looked forward to the dance scene this weekend, until I learned that one of the full-time dilettantes in the zydeco world known as a "promoter" was strong-arming his/her counterparts in other cities, as well as the musicians themselves, into not allowing me to sit in with the guitar on stage. It seems that these poor unlettered Creole folk are not astute enough to recognize a guy who knows what the hell he's doing, and they need a professional handler and arbiter of good taste to steer them from the indefatigable. (In my experience, that's not a promoter, but more like a producer or manager. But what the hell. I just play the stuff; it's not like I know what I'm doing.) Fortunately, there is a niche on stage for the court-jester appearances of anyone who can play a washboard.

My friend Tricia once told me that, when I get into a prolonged argument, I should allow time to have the last word. She knew I wasn't very good at that. So that leaves only one option. Make my own contacts with the band members, and in two years I need to get a place big enough to put a few of them up for a night. Meanwhile, I'll practice the hell out of the next two months, just in time for the All-Night Jam and Love Fest at the annual Buffalo Jam. That oughta show 'em who's got game!

Yeah, you right!

And speaking of zydeco, a tip of the Black Hat is due one recent correspondent, by the name of Erik Keilholtz, owner of the weblog Erik's Rants and Recipes:

"As the marketing and promotions director of Arhoolie, I am immersed in the world of Zydeco, and, as a member of St. Blog's I get a kick out of seeing the two worlds intersect. Of course, with interest in the Southern Catholic culture of Flannery O'Connor, and the fact that Louisiana has provided some of the more interesting manifestations of American Catholic culture, these intersections are inevitable."

Really? You might try telling that to the intellectual giants on the committee for the aforementioned dance weekend. I wanted to bring in a priest to the site for a brief Sunday Mass before breakfast. That most of the performers are Catholic was irrelevant, since "we'd have to do the same for everybody." In other words, allow people to exercise their First Amendment rights at a place open to the public, in a manner that is already an integral part of the culture we all pay good money to go ga-ga over.

On the other hand, "clothing optional" bathing is allowed at the other end of the lake, where the only ones who take advantage of the deal are not the young, nubile lasses, but the overweight male aging hippies, in which case you can just barely see... well, it's not a pretty sight.

But enough out of me. Proceed, Erik:

"One thing that you did not mention in your 'what is Zydeco' post is the interesting origin of the word: a contraction of 'les haricots vert' French for the green beans. Clifton Chenier, in talking about 'les zydeco sont pas sale' explains that the song is not simply a complaint about the cooking, but a lament that the beans were not salty because the family could not even afford the salt pork or ham hock to provide the salt to the dish."

Uh-huh. I've also heard that the "salt" was a vague sexual innuendo; you know, "let me be your salty dog," and all that -- something that never came up when we were kids snapping beans for Grandma Rosselot at the old home place. Glad we could get that out in the open here. (Pat, you listening?)

I hope this week is an improvement. If nothing else, to reenact the road to Calvary is to remind ourselves of how we must persevere in faith, knowing that our trials on Earth are so very brief, and our joys a prelude to the everlasting Joy of Heaven; knowing that our enemies will be trampled underfoot if we turn our sufferings over to Him on the Cross. In the words of the Psalmist:

"I put my trust in you, Lord;
 I say: 'You are my God,
 my fate is in your hands.'
Tear me from the grip of my enemies,
 from those who hound me;
let your face shine upon your servant,
 in your kindness, save me.
Let me not be put to shame,
 for I have called on you;
let the wicked be shamed instead,
 let them go down into the underworld and silence.
Let their lying mouths be dumb,
 that now speak against the righteous,
 in their pride and arrogance and contempt."
-- excerpt of Psalm 30(31V)

Fair enough. Hey, Erik, keep in touch.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Dateline Cincinnati

A few items of interest have appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer, aside from the Reds getting off to a lousy start. The brighter news includes a story of a Civil War general who left his name to a city landmark, but little of his memory. Along with this, is a sidebar about Cincinnati as a cultural and political crossroads between North and South. Finally, there is good news about the near-completion of the renovation of Cincinnati's oldest house of worship, Old Saint Mary's -- "as German as the Rhine and as Catholic as the Pope" -- not to mention my adopted parish whenever I'm back home.
Word from yo' mama!

The following was posted yesterday by Rod Dreher on National Review Online's The Corner. I can't do the exact link because it didn't work -- sort of like mine don't work.

"From the mailbag. Go, Mama, go!

"'I'm writing to relay a story from my mother-in-law who lives in El Paso, Texas.  As you might know El Paso is home to Fort Bliss where some of our POW's were stationed.  Well due to the shortage of priests at my mother-in-law's church, the Bishop came to give the Mass.  In his homily he spoke about the evil of abortion, euthanasia and the killing of innocents.  Then he related abortion and euthanasia to our soldiers in Iraq killing innocent women and children.  He ranted for about five minutes on the evil our soldiers were committing, all the while my mother-in-law says she was so shocked and angry that tears were coming.  Finally an older lady in the first few rows, rose and pointed a finger at the bishop and told him he should be ashamed of himself.  She said her son was serving in Iraq and was not evil and said she was proud that he was sacrificing his life so that others could be free.  With that she left her pew and walked out of the church.  To my mother-in-law's surprise and joy, parishioners started clapping as she walked out.  My mother-in-law says she clapped too.  The Bishop was so shocked that it took him a while to compose himself and when he did rambled an apology that his intention was not to offend anyone.  My mother-in-law, a devout Catholic, no longer respects her bishop.

"'Just wanted to relay this story to you.  Fortunately for me, my parish prays for our soldiers and we've been closing mass with America the Beautiful.'"

Later in the day, Dreher posted this apology:

"Earlier today, I posted a letter from a reader who reported that the Bishop of El Paso had attacked US troops in his Sunday sermon, and that the mother of a soldier let him have it. A few minutes ago, The Corner heard from a reader who contacted the El Paso chancery to complain, and was told that the Bishop hadn't made the offensive sermon, that a religious order priest had done so. The bishop, the second reader was told, has always supported the troops.

"I owe the bishop an apology...."

Fair enough.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

"Yo, can u plz help me write English?"

This is from the pages of USA Today, Tuesday April 1 2003. No foolin'!

"Carl Sharp knew there was a problem when he spotted his 15-year-old son's summer job application: 'i want 2 b a counselor because i love 2 work with kids.'

"That night, the father in Phoenix removed the AOL Instant Messenger program from the family computer and informed both his children they were no longer to chat with friends online.

"'That shorthand comes from talking on the Internet, and it's unacceptable,' Sharp says. 'I never thought I'd be encouraging my kids to talk on the telephone, but I realized that the constant chatting on the Internet was destroying their ability to write properly.'

"Parents such as Sharp -- and many educators -- are becoming increasingly alarmed by the effect of Internet communication on the writing skills of U.S. teens..."

In looking at the history of the written form of English, I wonder if, with the rise of instant messaging and "text messaging," we are not seeing the future of how the language will be written. Other aspects of life have become so efficient, at the expense of eloquence. This is typical of the "modernist" mentality in everyday life. Television was influenced by MTV to become a vehicle for rapid-fire images. NBC's The West Wing have characters that talk and wisecrack at such a pace, that one is hard-pressed to follow the series unless already a devotee (which I am, by the way).

Another of life's greatest questions, perhaps.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Life's Greatest Questions: First of a Continuing Series

What is zydeco?

This definition is provided courtesy of the Philadelphia based "Zydeco-A-Go-Go":

"...a syncopated dance music played by Creole French speaking people of African descent who historically lived on the prairies of Southwest Louisiana. At its core it is the sound of an accordion paired with the scrapping of a rubboard."

Another is available at the Encyclopedia of Cajun Culture:

"...a popular accordion-based musical genre hailing from the prairies of south-central and southwest Louisiana.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not Cajun in origin; rather, zydeco is the music of south Louisiana's Creoles of Color, who borrowed many of zydeco's defining elements from Cajun music."

The sun is shining, and spring has returned -- hopefully in time to salvage the cherry blossoms. The tax man is waiting for me to get my stuff together. Looks like I'll be indoors for much of the weekend. Friday night, I go listen to my boy give a talk at an AA meeting, his first public speaking engagement of this type. Saturday, it's up to Philly, for dancing... or whatever turns up.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

The Boys of Summer Return

"Vas you effer in Zinzinnati?"

When I was in the fourth grade, I had a paper route for The Cincinnati Enquirer. In the spring, if I got five new customers, I won two tickets to the Cincinnati Reds' Opening Day game at Crosley Field. Then, as now, this was considered acceptable grounds for being excused from school. I can still remember my dad and I sitting in the stands, watching hometown boy Pete Rose getting his first knocks on the old melon by sliding into a base. I remember the best hot dogs I ever tasted. Why didn't they taste like that anywhere else? My dad bought a big cup of Burger Beer. I got a pop (or, as they say on the East Coast, a soda). At one point, the organmeister would play "My Old Kentucky Home," and native sons of the Bluegrass State would stand with their hats off, as they would The Star Spangled Banner.

When I got older, I learned of other cities, with other baseball teams, who had the unmitigated gall to start their season on the same day, and even call it "opening day." But yesterday, for the 135th year, the real Opening Day Game took place in the Reds' new riverfront palace, fittingly known as The Great American Ball Park. Coincidentally named for an insurance corporation based in the Queen City of the West, it has already been trashed by snotty architects from out of town. But the fans love it, even though the first regular game was a loss (that, on top of two earlier exhibition losses to -- I almost hate to admit it -- the @$ߥ%?& Cleveland Indians!!!).

Meanwhile, on the west coast, my cousin Tom Lampkin retired from the game, and looks forward to spending the year with his family. After that, who knows? He may never get into the Hall of Fame. But he had his shot, and that's not too shabby. A lot of guys never did -- including his younger brother, who was considered his equal if not better, and only played one year for a farm team in Edmonton, Alberta.

The game is like that. So is life. And so, both go on...
The Feast of Fools

When I got on the subway this morning, it was only half full. Either the cherry blossoms were in full bloom at the Tidal Basin, or recent events in this city have made everyone a little skittish about practical jokes. Here is an account of the origin of this dubious holiday:

"...the beginning of this tradition was in 1582, in France. Prior to that year, the new year was celebrated for eight days, beginning on March 25. The celebration culminated on April 1. With the reform of the calendar under Charles IX, the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved to January 1.

"However, communications being what they were in the days when news traveled by foot, many people did not receive the news for several years. Others, the more obstinate crowd, refused to accept the new calendar and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1. These backward folk were labeled as "fools" by the general populace..."

The account goes on to say that, in Mexico, the equivalent to this holiday is celebrated on December 28 -- my birthday. No foolin.'

Meanwhile, in an effort to lend some degree of seriousness to the occastion, former Monty Python member John Cleese gave the annual April Fool's Day lecture at Cornell University, according to the International Herald Tribune.