Friday, March 22, 2019

RICHARD, WE HARDLY KNEW YE


POSSIBLY TAKEN AT PETEY'S 

One of our favorite relatives, known to me as Cousin Dickie, died last Friday.

Here's the obit I worked up:

Richard G. King, 80, of 1459 Ocean Boulevard died on March 15 after a long illness.

Born on July 11, 1938, in Danvers, MA, Richard came as a child to live in Rye Beach [NH] with his paternal grandparents, Jeanne and Richard G. King, Sr. He never left.

A long-time member of the Bricklayers’ Union, Richard also worked variously as a house cleaner, landscaper, handyman, and dishwasher at Portsmouth’s Metro Restaurant.

As well, he faithfully cared for both his grandmothers through their respective last long years.

Richard had an encyclopedic knowledge of the sale price of every home up and down Ocean Boulevard from approximately 1955 on, a special affinity for the Early Bird Special at Betty’s Kitchen, and a virulent aversion to Rye Beach motorcycle traffic and the current inhabitant of the White House.

He played the organ and sang a killer version of “O Holy Night” on Christmas Eve.

But his real heart was for gardening. Each fall he unearthed his treasured dahlia bulbs, wrapped them in old pages of "The Portsmouth Herald," and put them up in the cellar till spring. He had a patch of unusual pink lilies-of-the-valley, several prize irises, and a champion peony bed. “They don’t talk back to you,” he once observed of his blooms. “And if you care for them—they sing!”

He is survived by sister Nancy King-Morelli of Laconia, NH, and by cousins Allen K. King, Sr. of Los Angeles, CA, Heather D. King of Pasadena, CA, Joseph P. King of Marietta, GA, Ross J. King of Alhambra, CA, Geordie H. King of Eliot, ME, Timothy F. King of Rye Beach—Richard’s caretaker during his last years—Richard Tessier of Portsmouth, and Meredith A. King of Northampton, MA.

Funeral services will be held at Buckminster Chapel in Portsmouth.


RIP DICKIE.
WE LOVED YOU AND WE LOVED THE HOUSE AND YOUR GARDEN.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A FIELD TRIP TO BEVERLY HILLS: THE PALEY CENTER FOR MEDIA




Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

From a recent email sent by my little brother Joe: “Hey aged relative — do you have [our brother] Ross’s address? I bought Allen [our nephew] a signed 8-by-10 glossy of Martin Milner from ‘Adam-12.’ I know he likes the show.”

Me: “Who’s Martin Milner?”

Joe: “Martin Milner? Are you tripping? Pete Malloy from Adam-12? The greatest cop show in the history of TV? Late ’60s, early ’70s? It was produced by Jack Webb, so there’s all sorts of killer episodes of stoned hippy parents who beat their children to death or let them drown while they’re smoking marijuana cigarettes. Funny as hell.”

My own TV watching came to a screeching halt right around the time “Mr. Ed” completed its run. Still, I dearly wish my brother (who heads up a punk band called The Queers) lived in LA.

For here’s a fun thing to do on the Westside: The Paley Center for Media, smack in the middle of Beverly Hills.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

CHESTERTON AND VON BALTHASAR



"The Church is the one thing that saves a man from the degrading servitude of being a child of his time."
-- G.K. Chesterton

“Love alone is credible.”
― Hans Urs von Balthasar


I DON'T KNOW WHY--THE PHOTOS AREN'T EVEN THAT GOOD--
AND I DON'T KNOW THE NAME OF THE TREE--SOMETHING AUSTRALIAN,
I'D WAGER--BUT THESE SPEAK TO ME!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

JANE BROX'S NEW BOOK: SILENCE



Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

Jane Brox has written, elegiacally, of growing up on her family’s Massachusetts apple farm in “Here and Nowhere Else,” “Five Thousand Days Like This One,” and “Clearing the Land.” Her nonfiction book on the evolution of artificial light is the aptly named “Brilliant.”

Her newest work — fitting for Lent — is called “Silence: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives.”

The first takeaway (perhaps unintended) is a new awareness of the hideous tortures imposed by humans upon other humans in the name of “correction.”

Brox opens with Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, established in 1829 as an experiment in prison rehabilitation. Each cell was essentially what we would today term a Special Housing Unit (SHU).

“[D]uring the period of their confinement, no one shall see or hear, or be seen or heard by any other human being,” ran a portion of the prison’s mission statement.

Brox goes on to compare this kind of punitive silence with the silence of the monastic cloister. And to her credit, she doesn't come entirely down on either side!

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

RUNNING FOR THE HILLS: AUTHOR HORATIO CLARE



I just finished an extraordinary memoir, Running for the Hills: Growing Up on my Mother's Sheep Farm in Wales by Horatio Clare.

Like many people I know, Clare grew up with a gloriously eccentric (sometimes bordering on scary) parent (the father left soon after the mother, Horatio, and his younger brother moved to a very isolated farm). They had no money nor TV but tons of books...and nature..."[T]hough I have learned of the dangers that attend and await romantic people, that bipolar breed, the certain failure, the heartbreak--theirs and others'--and the loneliness, I cannot quite wish that they, or I, had been otherwise. If life is hills and valleys, then let the hills be high"...

Here's his description of the place they found after the boys had grown up, the mother's heart had been shattered by a later-in-life lost love, and the farm became too much: "In the end we found a large old house, half derelict, half comfortable, which had not been much messed around. It had the thick walls and the old-ship feeling of the farm. It had an old apple orchard, and there were kind neighbors nearby. Jack's cottage was just across the garden."

I don't know Jack, of course, but no matter: that is my dream house.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

DO WE MAKE PEOPLE FEEL THINGS LOVEABLE THAT WE FEEL LOVEABLE OURSELVES?

LA QUINTA CA,
TWO DAYS BEFORE ASH WEDNESDAY

"I tell you, Edward," said my father with some severity, "we must judge men not so much by what they do, as by what they make us feel that they have it in them to do. If a man has done enough either in painting, music or the affairs of life, to make me feel that I might trust him in an emergency he has done enough. It is not by what a man has actually put upon his canvas, nor yet by the acts which he has set down, so to speak, upon the canvas of his life that I will judge him, but by what he makes me feel that he felt and aimed at. If he has made me feel that he felt those things to be loveable which I hold loveable myself I ask no more; his grammar may have been imperfect, but still I have understood him; he and I are en rapport; and I say again, Edward, that old Pontifex was not only an able man, but one of the very ablest men I ever knew."

--Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh

Friday, March 1, 2019

PONTORMO'S "THE VISITATION"



Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

If there is one museum exhibit to see this year, I cast my vote for “Pontormo: Miraculous Encounters,” at the Getty. Its centerpiece is an exquisite rendering of the “Visitation.”

The Saturday I went traffic was horrible, getting into the Getty lot and finding a space took almost half an hour, and rather than stand for God knows how long more in the TSA-style security line through which visitors now have to pass simply to get on the tram, I opted to walk up the hill.

En route, I thought about how the whole experience of getting to our beloved Getty is a microcosm of our lives as Angelenos: the car, the beauty crossed with hardship, frustration, hope, and if we’re lucky, gratitude.

I thought of the “Visitation’s” backstory: how the angel Gabriel “overshadowed” the Virgin Mary, her question — “But how can this be?” — her sublime yes. Pregnant with Christ, she’d set out on foot, traversing “the hill country” to visit her aged cousin Elizabeth who, way past childbearing age, at the time was also miraculously pregnant.

To know the backstory is to know that Elizabeth was bearing into the world John the Baptist, who would say of Christ, “He must increase, and I must decrease,” who would be a voice crying out in the wilderness, and who would be beheaded in prison at the behest of a harlot and her mother.

READ THE REST HERE.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

ROBIN MAAS ON CARYLL HOUSELANDER



"It is one thing to worship Christ as the perfection of human
nature in the Incarnation. It is quite another to recognize and
welcome him "in every kind of imperfect, unlikely, and-assessed
by our own vanity-unsuitable human creature." But, [Houselander] insists,
there is "no kind of person through whom Christ will not love the
world." In particular, he chooses to dwell within those from whom
the "mediocre shrink . . . people in whom suffering is stripped
naked in all its ugliness, and whose suffering cannot be cured by
our charity.... Like the disciples in the garden we prefer to shut
our eyes rather than to enter into this suffering without being
able to hide or alleviate it. "

--Robin Maas, from "Caryll Houselander: An Appreciation"








Friday, February 22, 2019

ROBINSON JEFFERS' TOR HOUSE

HAWK TOWER, BUILT ADJACENT TO TOR HOUSE
FOR HIS WIFE UNA

Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

In his day, Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) was one of the nation’s best-loved poets.

He was known mainly for his epic Greek-style poems, modern-day tragedies based on California’s central coast.

He toiled in obscurity, then hit it big around the age of 37, when “Tamar and Other Poems” became a best-seller. Six years later, he was on the cover of Time.

He and his wife, Una, came to Carmel in 1914. After their twin sons were born in 1916, they bought land on an isolated, wind-swept promontory. There were no paved roads, no trees, no neighbors.

Jeffers began hauling stones up the hill from the beach by hand. With no written plans and no formal training in architecture or construction, he built an English garden-style cottage (later expanded) and, from 1920-1924, an adjacent tower of granite.

Tor House he called it, “tor” being a Celtic word meaning “outcropping of rock.”

Today you can take a docent-led tour of Tor House and Hawk Tower on Fridays or Saturdays, reservations required.

Here, you can learn all about the Jeffers’ backstory, which began with a scandal (Una was married when they met; her ex-husband, an LA lawyer, ended up building his own stone house right down the street).

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

#ALLOFUS


"Unhindered by the guards, we stood by the barbed-wire fence which separated our compound from the men's, and gazed spellbound at the long line of men who passed before us--silent, with bowed heads, plodding wearily in prison boots similar to ours. Their uniforms were also similar, but their trousers with the brown stripes were even more like convicts' garb than our skirts. Although one might have thought the men were stronger than we were, they seemed somehow defenseless and we all felt a maternal pity for them. They stood up to pain so badly--this was every woman's opinion--and they would not know how to mend anything or be able to wash their clothes on the sly as we could with our light things...Above all, they were our husbands and brothers, deprived of our care in this terrible place. As someone expressed it, quoting from one of Ehrenburg's early novels, "The poor dears have no one to sew their buttons on for them."

Each face seemed to me to resemble my huband's; I was so tense my head ached. All of us were straining to try to find our loved ones. Suddenly one of the men at last noticed us and cried out:

"Look, the women! Our women!"

What happened next was indescribable. It was as if some strong electric current had flashed across the barbed wire. It was clear at that moment how alike, deep down, all human beings are. All the feelings that had been suppressed during two year of prison, all that each one of us had borne solitarily in himself or herself, gushed to the surface and mingled in a flood that seemed to be both within us and around us. The men and women were shouting and reaching out to each other. Almost all were sobbing aloud.

"You poor loves you poor darlings! Cheer up, be brave, be strong!" Such were the words that were shouted both ways across the wire....

The next stage was the throwing of "presents" across the wire. The emotional tension on both sides needed an outlet in action: we each longed to give something, but we had no proper possessions to give. So one heard:

"Take my towel. It's not too badly torn!"
"Girls! Anybody want this pot? I made it from a prison mug I stole."
"Here, take this bread. You're so thin after the journey!"

There were also violent cases of love at first sight. As if by magic, these almost disembodied human beings recovered their sensibility, which had been dulled by such cruel sufferings. Tomorrow or the day after, they would be led off in different directions and never see one another again. But today they gazed feverishly into each other's eyes through the rusty barbed wire, and talked and talked...

I have never in my life seen more sublimely unselfish love than that which was shown in those fleeting romances between strangers--perhaps because, in their case, love indeed was linked with death.

----Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg, Journey Into the Whirlwind (trans. Paul Stevenson and Max Hayward)

Ginzburg (1904-1977) was a mother, wife, educator, journalist and dedicated Communist who was caught up in the Stalinist purges starting in 1934. She spent two years in solitary and 18 at hard labor in the notorious gulag at Kolyma.

The above scene took place at a Siberian transit station where both female and male inmates, recently released from solitary confinement, interrogation, and in many cases torture,  were being transported to draconian work camps.

Monday, February 18, 2019

WHO WOULD LIKE ME TO GIVE A TALK IN WASHINGTON DC?





IT'S CAMELLIA TIME AT THE HUNTINGTON.
SOMEONE CUNNINGLY TUCKED A SINGLE BLOOM INTO
EACH OF THESE STATUES.

I have never had much of an urge to visit Washington. Seats of power, military might, and people in business suits--not my thing. 

What does draw me is a cheap place to stay, free museums, public gardens and friends.

Thus I've planned a week-long jaunt June 12-19. I've amassed enough frequent flyer miles so my ticket cost only $11.60. I'll be staying at the Dominican priory, close to the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where I hope to pray for one and all, near and far, living, unborn and dead. 

I'm also thinking to let it be known I'll be in town, just on the off chance anyone might be interested in employing me to give a talk. Since airfare and lodging are on me, you might get a bargain out of the deal, too!

Either way, I very much look forward to my visit. Everyone says the city is beautiful. 

PINK IS DEFINITELY FEBRUARY'S COLOR.




Saturday, February 16, 2019

STEVE TROVATO, MASTER GUITARIST

STEVE, TEARING IT UP

Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

Steve Trovato has been called a jazz master, a superpicker, and a blues and rock virtuoso. He’s a longtime professor at the Studio Guitar and Contemporary Popular Music Performance Departments at USC.

He’s produced his own albums, created dozens of instructional videos and lesson books, won numerous awards, and been recognized internationally. He plays four or five gigs a week around greater LA.

“Music is what I do. It’s all I do.”

But when we got together recently to talk, he didn’t focus on his accomplishments. He talked about what had made him a musician.

“When I was growing up in New Jersey, we weren’t allowed to talk. Joy, sadness: all emotion was off limits.” There was trauma. There was violence.

He was allowed to play the piano. He got pretty good at it. But at 12 or so, watching bands on Ed Sullivan, he noticed the girls weren’t going crazy for the piano players.

He badgered his father into buying him a $26 guitar. He practiced for 10, 12 hours a day.

“I woke up with the guitar next to me on the bed. I played all day, went to sleep with the guitar, woke up and did it all over again. Week after week, month after month. I practiced like that for at least eight or 10 years.”

He learned to talk and express his emotions, to communicate, through music.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Steve is a friend of mine, I'm proud to say. Getting to sit down and talk with him was a treat.



Thursday, February 14, 2019

THE UNPREDICTABLE BEAUTY OF OUTLIER ART


TWO WORKS BY SAM DOYLE,
ONE OF MY FAVORITE "OUTLIERS"

Whoops, I see I skipped a week and unintentionally omitted my arts and culture column from Feb. 1st.

Here's how it begins:

I’d been looking forward to “Outliers and American Vanguard Art at LACMA” (through March 17) for weeks.

And let me say up front that if you’re really interested in outliers, I’d suggest “Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond” (available at the Los Angeles Public Library).

Author John Maizels has a heart for the artists, and an ear and eye for the strangeness of their vocations.

As British art historian Roger Cardinal points out in the Introduction, “Maizels writes with equal zest about drawings, paintings, sculptures, assemblages and performances. … However, what matters is not any material variability of scale but the central fact of the omnipresence of the maker within any true artwork. …

“Maizels is quick to show that there is no discovery without context, no context without complexity, and no complexity without the need for empathetic understanding.”

Context, understanding, and empathy are in large part what the LACMA exhibit lacks. For starters, there is little to no information, personal or otherwise, about the bulk of the artists. For that, apparently, the guard informed me, you have to take a tour. But if you have to take a tour, and sign up in advance, why not put that up on the website rather than spring it on the visitor who, like me, likely has a two-hour window?

As it was, I blundered through, overwhelmed by the size and underwhelmed by the fact that the exhibit’s focus on the way outsider art has come to be appropriated and marketed by the avant-garde consistently overshadows the oddness, mysterious apartness and genius of the artists themselves.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

AND HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Monday, February 11, 2019

PILGRIM RIVER




Here's the first paragraph of a wonderful review of  Kenneth Garcia's new memoir, Pilgrim River. Garcia is Associate Director of the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame.

"The wise know there are many paths to God. Ken Garcia’s wildly circuitous route stands as lusty evidence that the Deity is abidingly patient and forgiving. Pilgrim River is not just a spiritual memoir, as the title claims, but an autobiographical narrative that says as much about God’s devotion to the earth’s lost sheep as about the author’s hunt for the divine in a profane yet mysteriously sacred world. In fact, the God of Garcia’s telling is more dance partner than passive destination."

Here's the link to the rest of the review.

And here's one of my favorite passages from the book:

"The Catholic Church--with its seemingly intractable flaws and its resistance to reform and change, yet, simultaneously, with its rich spiritual and theological tradition and its openness to grace, which it strives to mediate to a world in need of it--became a home, a sort of base camp from which I have launched explorations and that I have returned to for rest and sustenance. A home full of flawed people with whom you nevertheless have an unbreakable bond because you are joined in a sacramental family, even when you dislike one another. The Church, like most of us, is a wayward pilgrim in search of holiness and salvation."

A beautifully written story of an ongoing search and ongoing struggle. Highly recommended.


Friday, February 8, 2019

LEANING INTO THE WIND




Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

“Leaning Into the Wind” is a 2018 documentary about Andy Goldsworthy, a self-proclaimed “British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist producing site-specific sculpture and land art situated in natural and urban settings.”

Goldsworthy does things like lie on the sidewalk when it rains so that, when he gets up, he leaves a body-shaped dry spot; or covers his hands with painstakingly applied bright red autumn leaves, then dips them in the river and lets the leaves wash away; or sculpts a skinny meandering white line across a stone wall with wool from the sheep who graze the adjacent fields.

You may or may not respond to this. I absolutely do. (Though I may have liked his last film, “Rivers and Tides,” even better). But however you feel about his art, you have to admit that this good man is alive and vital and questing, questing, questing.

He was formed as a boy working on farms: stacking bales, harvesting wild oats, hefting stones. Gathering, cutting, building, stacking.

“There are a lot of contradictions in what I make.” When he was younger, he was more sure of how to describe what he does. But the passage of time, losses, and deaths tend to soften and anneal.

“Now it’s more — nature is everywhere so why even mention it? When I’m working in the city, I’m working with nature. When I’m working with myself I’m working with nature. It isn’t so clear any more.”

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.




Tuesday, February 5, 2019

HOMELESS

David "Chim" Seymour/Magnum Images
Tereska, in a residence for disturbed children, after drawing a picture of “home” on the blackboard, Poland, 1948


Talks and Homilies of the Elder Zosima
from The Brothers Karamazov
- Fyodor Dostoevsky -

Young man, young woman, do not forget to pray.

Each time you pray, if you do so sincerely, there will be a flash of a new feeling in it, and a new thought as well, one you did not know before, which will give you new courage; and you will understand that prayer is an awakening.

Remember also: every day and wherever you can, repeat within yourself: “Lord, have mercy upon all who come before me today.” For every hour and every moment thousands of people leave their life on this earth, and their souls come before the Lord – and so many of them part with the earth in isolation, unknown to to anyone, in sadness and in sorrow that no one will mourn for them, or even know whether they had lived or not.

And so, perhaps from the other end of the earth, your prayer for his or her repose will rise up to the Lord, though you did not know them at all, nor they you.

How moving it is for their soul, coming in fear before the Lord, to feel at that moment that someone is praying for them, too, that there is still a human being on earth who loves them.

And God, too, will look upon you both with more mercy, for if even you so pitied them, how much more will He who is infinitely more merciful and loving than you are.

And He will forgive them for your sake.

Children, do not be afraid of men’s sin, love man also for his sin, for this likeness of God’s love is the height of love on earth.

Love all of God’s creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love plants, love each thing.

If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in all things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day.

And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love.

Love the animals: God gave them the rudiments of thought and an untroubled joy. Do not trouble nor torment them, do not take their joy from them, do not go against God’s purpose. Man, do not exalt yourself above the animals: they are sinless.

Love children especially, for they, too, are sinless, like angels, and live to bring us to tenderness and the purification of our hearts and as a sort of example for us.

Always resolve to take men’s sin and your own by humble love. If you do so, you will be able to overcome the whole world.

A loving humility is a terrible power, the most powerful of all, nothing compares with it.

Keep company with yourself and look to yourself every day and hour, every minute, that your image be ever gracious.

My friends, ask gladness from God. Be glad as children, as birds in the sky.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

DEAR LOS ANGELES



Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

David Kipen is a native Angeleno, former literature director for the National Endowment of the Arts, professor, critic, radio personality, and founder of the nonprofit Boyle Heights lending library Libros Schmibros.

But his greatest achievement may the splendid new book he compiled and edited: “Dear Los Angeles: The City In Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018.”

Rather than arrange the entries chronologically, Kipen hit upon a brilliant alternative: “I could start with January 1 and just work forward one day at a time, complementary trying to juxtapose a few passages for each date. One step forward, two centuries back — the perennial, quixotic spectacle of LA forever finding fresh mistakes to make.”

Thus, for any given day, you might get a padre roaming on horseback sizing up prospective mission sites, an account of meeting Greta Garbo at a cocktail party, and, say, on June 2, 1979, screenwriter Michael Palin’s evocative description of the city: “Low, flat, sprawling and laid-back — like a patient on a psychiatrist’s couch.”

The book opens, fittingly, with a passage from Judge Benjamin Hayes who on Jan. 1, 1853, wrote: “I have not yet seen a gold mine!”

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

MISSION TO THE CALIFORNIA MISSIONS


MISSION SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA




SUNRISE

In an attempt, to partial avail, to escape the construction noise at my apartment, I took off last week for the Central Coast.

In Santa Maria I visited with my dear friends Tensie and Dennis and made an abortive attempt to purchase a cemetery plot in the adjacent hamlet of Guadalupe (that it was MLK Day had slipped my mind). However, we had a nice stroll about the graveyard which is surrounded by broccoli fields, the Amtrak station, and the bustle of the little coastal town, with rolling emerald green (from the recent rain) hills and the ocean beyond. I am both thrilled and at peace to think of my mortal remains being laid to rest there.

More to the point, we also had good, deep conversation and a delicious dinner and breakfast and I felt cared for, and restored, in a way that is beyond precious to me.

From there I motored up to Mission San Antonio which is 30 miles or so in from the 101 and breathtakingly beautiful. Though unfortunately in the midst of a military base. And during the day undergoing extremely loud renovation. I stayed two nights and the first night I was there totally alone! The hallway in the wing of former monks' cells where my room was looked and felt exactly like a set from The Shining and since the bathroom was down the hall, made night-time quite exciting.

The second night a large "former law enforcement" guy I'll called Rommell showed up, smelling strongly of alcohol, told me about his divorce, and lurked in the hall pacing up and down and braying loudly into his cell phone for a couple of hours. So that was a different kind of excitement. I had to flee to the church, kneel before the altar, and say the St. Michael the Archangel prayer.

Thus all was well.

After that I drove yet further north to the lovely small city of Monterey. Here I was graced to stay at a guest room in the rectory of the San Carlos Cathedral. I may be biased but to me, this is the most beautiful of all the mission churches I've seen (which is maybe ten, and that includes Carmel, which I also visited while in the area). Lovingly, meticulously, intelligently restored and I got to attend 7:45 Mass both mornings, once with retired Bishop Sylvester Ryan (deLIGHTful man!) and once with Fr. Patrick Dooling, beloved priest of the Monterey Diocese and forever kind and generous friend to Heather D. King.

I also made my way to a couple of gatherings of Monterey-area drunks. As usual, these good, solid, honest, funny, humble, bloodied-but-still-standing folks infused me with courage, strength, cheer and cups of strong, sludge-like coffee. Deep thanks to all at 519 Hartnell Street, as always to Tensie and Dennis, and of course to my dear Father Pat.

MATILIJA POPPIES, EARLY-BLOOMING,
ALONG THE MONTEREY SEA WALL

PROTEAS (I THINK THAT'S RIGHT), DITTO

CAMELLIAS, IN THE BEAUTIFUL TUCKED-AWAY GARDEN
OUTSIDE MONTEREY'S CITY HALL

Sunday, January 20, 2019

WE DREAM OF PEACE



"The logic of power demand[s] that triggers be pulled. It has no room for humanistic concerns and for the reasons of the heart. And how shall one solve this problem? How see that the killing goes on, without inner resistance, without "negative emotional reactions," without a guilty conscience? How transform a painful experience into a pleasant or at least endurable one? How totally adjust the consciousness of man to the logic of power?"

"We dream of peace. This is something new, for in the past we have thought victories more important. What we really loved was the death of our enemies. This is  the secret hidden under the fanfare of military parades and marches. They are liturgies of death, and the fascination they have exercised over us is an indication of how committed we have been to the worship of death."

--Rubem Alves, Tomorrow's Child

"Dragged a black Sgt named Pitt from under flaming Jeep overturned on Hwy. 3. His hands burned off. Kept asking if Jesus would come. 'Will he? Will he?' Over and over, repeating. I told him, By and by."

From the journal of Major Milton Felder, USAF
April 9, 1969
My Lai, South Vietnam"

--Thomas S. Klise, The Last Western


“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world (today) is my own government.”
--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



Friday, January 18, 2019

NEVER TOO LATE



I have written at length of Thérèse of Lisieux's famous Christmas Eve conversion.

This year I had a little one of my own! I write about it HERE.

Headed up to the Central Coast for the week--wishing you all peace, hope and joy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

FINDING WORDS FOR TODAY'S COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION



 Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

I spend so much time alone, pondering and praying, that I sometimes forget much of the world holds very different views than I do.

The other day, for example, while talking to a secular friend, I (very unwisely) burst forth with an impassioned description of an essay I was working on.

“It’s about womanhood, and how really the heart of what is best and most glorious about women is their ability to bring new life into the world! You don’t have to be an actual mother, obviously, but the heart of a mother! I can’t get behind this cold-blooded, aggressive fury that seems to be the overriding emotion of today’s ‘feminists.’ ”

Silence. Then — “I can’t say I agree with you. I think it’s fantastic that so many women have been elected to office recently.”

“Well, yes, or rather maybe. Because if they come at their jobs with the same adversarial, power-driven tactics they purport to despise in men, we’re just going to have the formerly oppressed as the new oppressors.”

It devolved from there. My friend thought everything was going to be solved by the new class of warrior women, and I could not be moved from my view of the culture as on every level virulently anti-life.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.



LIFE IS THORNY

Friday, January 11, 2019

THE NOTION OF FAMILY AT THE CALIFORNIA AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM

GORDON PARKS
ONDRIA TANNER & HER GRANDMOTHER
WINDOW SHOPPING, MOBILE, ALABAMA 1956


Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

What with the recent Nativity of Christ, the feast of the Holy Family, and the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, “The Notion of Family” at the California African American Museum (CAAM) seems especially timely.

The exhibit comprises artworks from the 19th through the 21st centuries and runs through March 3.

If you haven’t visited CAAM, you really should. (Its Jan. 21 Martin Luther King Jr. festivities would be a good place to start). CAAM is down in Exposition Park, a neighbor of the Museum of Natural History and the California Science Center.

The building is sharp-looking, expansive, and smart (as is its website). The exhibits, this one overseen by Vida L. Brown, visual arts curator and program manager, are beautifully designed to intrigue without overwhelming.

Though this is the smallest of those currently on view, to me it packs the most intense punch.

Paintings, prints, photographs, assemblages, and sculptures chart “a trajectory of African American family and togetherness over generations.” The impression is of a culture formed around steadfast endurance, community, storytelling, music, and food.

A palpable rootedness to heart and earth. A slow-burning ember of tears and of rage. The lash marks of generational trauma, and a majestic, near-explosive refusal to be overcome by it.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

IN PRAISE OF HUMOR



From a piece by Andrew Sullivan from New York Magazine, dated December 7, 2018, entitled "America's New Religions":

"For many, especially the young, discovering a new meaning in the midst of the fallen world is thrilling. And social-justice ideology does everything a religion should. It offers an account of the whole: that human life and society and any kind of truth must be seen entirely as a function of social power structures, in which various groups have spent all of human existence oppressing other groups. And it provides a set of practices to resist and reverse this interlocking web of oppression — from regulating the workplace and policing the classroom to checking your own sin and even seeking to control language itself. I think of non-PC gaffes as the equivalent of old swear words. Like the puritans who were agape when someone said “goddamn,” the new faithful are scandalized when someone says something “problematic.” Another commonality of the zealot then and now: humorlessness."

****

"Knowing who we are, it would be really ridiculous
if we kept humour out of our loving.
We are all clowns though we don't always find it easy 
to laugh at our own clowning.

Lord, I love you more than anything...in general;
but in this brief particular minute I love this English cigarette
more...maybe even this Gauloise.

Lord, I give you my life, my whole life...
but not this small portion of my life, these three minutes...
when I'm not particularly keen on going to work. 

Lord, for you I would win over this city, 
France, the universe.
I would wear myself to a frazzle
working for your kingdom...
but I can't bear listening to this person 
telling me her petty irritations
for the hundredth time.

Yes, we are the heroes of this slapstick comic opera
and normally the audience that we are playing to
is ourselves.
But this is not the end of the story. 

When we have discovered this priceless comedian,
when we have left with a great roar of laughter
as we have told the funny story that is our life,
we may be tempted to throw ourselves
without more ado
into our careers as a clown, a career for which, after all,
it appears that we have considerable talent.

We would be tempted to think that this was not 
a matter of grave importance and that alongside
the high quality people, the strong and the saints
there would be room for a few clowns and fools
and that this would hardly upset God.
Admittedly this role is not a very exalted one
but nor is it a very demanding one
and this is in its favor.

It is at this point that we ought to recall
that God has not created us for human loving
but for that eternal awesome love
with which he loves everything
that he has ever created.

We should also accept his love
not as a large-hearted magnificent partner
but as the idiot beneficiary of it that we are,
devoid both of charm and basic loyalty. 

And in this adventure of Mercy
we are asked to give whatever we can
until we have nothing left.
We are even asked to laugh
when the gift that we make is defective
whether because of failure, filth or impurity. 

But we are asked also to be full of wonder
with tears of thanksgiving and joy
before this inexhaustible treasure
that flows into us from God's heart.

It is at this intersection 
of laughter and joy
that we find a peace 
beyond all confusion.

--Madeleine Delbrêl (1904-1964),  French Catholic author, poet, social activist and mystic,
from The Joy of Believing


LET'S NOT BE SO PRICKLY! 

Monday, January 7, 2019

ACCUWEATHER WOODSEERS

EARLY HIBISCUS

"Woodseers are insects which I dare say you know very well whether it be the proper name I don't know this what we call them & that you know is sufficient for us--they lye in little white notts of spittle on the backs of leaves & flowers. How they come I don't know but they are always seen plentiful in moist weathe--& are one of the shepherds weather glasses. When the head of the insect is seen upward it is said to token fine weather when downward on the contrary wet may be expected."

--John Clare (1793-1864)