Wednesday, May 28, 2014

This Is Ponderous

You've all been wanting to ask, I just know it:

“Yo, Mister Black-Hatted One, how come you haven't added to the cacophony of commentary of Catholic stuff lately; you know, heretics running loose, Pope Francis saying something he regrets by the end of the day, the next pretty face on the celebrity convert circuit -- we've been tired of having to choose between Mark Shea's massive cult following and Michael Voris' massive head of hair. What gives?”

Well, you asked for it, and I'm gonna tell ya.

It happens every year, the two events which, one on top of the other, account for April and May being the busiest time of the year for me. There has been little opportunity to write, until the holiday weekend which had just passed.

Holy Week

There is, of course, the week or so preceding Easter, which is by far and away the busiest time of year at any Catholic parish. When I began at St John the Beloved nearly seven years ago, I was Master of Ceremonies for all parish-wide events pertaining to Holy Week. Since then, as the parish's celebration of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil) uses the "Novus Ordo Missae" in Latin and English, rather than the traditional form, the role of MC has been handed over to the older gentlemen in the server corps. My official title for those days (as if I really needed one) is now "Privy Chaplain to the Pastor Emeritus," which means I sit "in choir" with him and the other ordained guys, and fetch the good Father something if he needs it. I suspect it's more of an honorarium than anything else.

Washington Folk Festival

The other event takes place on the weekend following Memorial Day. I've been involved with the Festival since 1992, when I lived in Georgetown, and ran into a former partner from the Contra Dancing days. She told me they needed a designer and editor for their program guide. I've been at it ever since, and the first three weekends in May are pretty much taken up compiling the material and putting it altogether. The staff people are really a great bunch, and it amounts to what is probably the most angst-free volunteer endeavor I have done in my life, with very little in the way of politics and palace intrigue. In return, they get a product about whose delivery they never have to worry. Granted, it is one of the less important aspects of the Festival production -- unless it isn't there.

Some years I work the Festival. Some years I don't go at all. My son Paul used to do stage work, and was running a sound board by the time he was twelve. I've never actually performed for it, though, not even as a sideman. Washington isn't like Cincinnati, where I would have been in a working band a long time ago. I can't really explain it.

Well, anyway, Holy Week and the Festival are the two annual "big ticket" items. This year, there is more …


My house needs attention this year. My townhouse neighborhood has a number of laundry rooms throughout the complex, but more and more people are putting in their own units. I had mine put in last year, but there is more to be done. Sal acquired some antique furniture when one of her home health care patients couldn't take it with them, so it has found a place here. She keeps things in the drawers for the off-season, to facilitate sharing a small apartment with her BFF, so she gets storage at room temperature, and I get a place that looks … well, more domesticated than I am (plus it breaks up the monotony of bookshelves). The acquisition also included a china cabinet, so now I can finally display my mother's Depression glass collection. In addition, I am building my new combination stereo cabinet and fireplace, over which will be mounted my (very first) big-@$$ flat screen television. I'm probably the last one in my family (or for that matter, my neighborhood) to use an old-style cathode-ray tube set. And so an era of technology draws to a close. But first …

I need to repaint the interior. Being a designer, I have to approach this using a disciplined method (which drives Sal crazy, and that's part of the fun), in the form of The Home Color Selector by David Willis. I was supposed to schedule the painters this week, but was delayed by one thing or another, so it will have to take place some time during the summer. I'm also thinking about what to do with the kitchen, which has not had anything done since these units were last renovated en masse in 1982 (which is how old my dishwasher is). I'm getting estimates anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000, depending on how much of a production I want to make of this.

Capping that all off, of course, is the need to refinance. I bought the house in September of 2005, about a year before the housing bubble burst. And even though my neighborhood is next to the most up-and-coming neighborhood in northern Virginia, my real estate assessment is only now beginning to rise, after years of steadily going down. That matters when it comes to how much you pay in real estate taxes, but as to refinancing, no matter what your credit rating or income (and I'm good on both counts), it all comes down to this: no financial institution will touch a mortgage with a balance higher than 95 percent of what the home is presently worth.

Things could be worse. I could be out in Fairfax or Loudoun County, living in a big-@$$ McMansion that really took a serious bath when the bottom fell out. But still, if I'm going to have more than a modest retirement, something's gotta happen in the next six to twelve months. But you know, I'm still in this ball game, and it ain't over until it's over.

Nine to Five

And, of course, there is still the day job. After more than thirty years as a graphic designer (a "visual information specialist" in government parlance), I have been a photographer and video producer for the last three or four years, and a year ago next month, was reclassified as an "audiovisual production specialist." My director asked me to complete a self-assessment for my midyear review. I put on it: “I am the least of your worries.” I didn't get an argument, not from him, and not from the deputy communications director, to whom he reports. I find myself becoming increasingly relied upon for certain events, and unlike my previous position, I deal directly with top officials, without being hovered over by a bunch of empty-suited nervous Nellies, as I often was in the past. So, even though I haven't gotten a promotion in a gazillion years, my influence is being felt, and I'm working with the grownups again. I haven't had the chance for this much access since the early Reagan years.

And so, even though I'm no closer to being a mega-pundit of Catholic new media than I was a year ago, it's only because there are not enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done. So if you're looking to keep up on all the bitching and moaning going on, keep watching for our regular Thursday feature, because that's where we give you the highlights and the low blows.

And speaking of time, I turn sixty years old this year, which is another subject for another day. “I think you see what I mean.”

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