Friday, May 06, 2005

We're Still Gone Away

Gentle, old visitors, we're still gone away at Come see us.

(Not to be confused with the real Gone Away.)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Off the Shelf

Well, we've almost all moved on. Signed into that typepad thing, and it just wouldn't let me in--and that was after I registered! Plus it asks too, too many questions. (That sounded so--blog. Didn't it?) So I return to our old Hereunder haunts to see if anyone remembers me. After all, it's been a cybereternity since I last posted. What loyalties can one expect to truly build in the denatured world of cyberspace? (I'll patch into the new blog once I catch up with the technology.)

Anyway, as I was trying to tell the world earlier before . . .

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Moving On Up

Yes -- we have grown; we have moved on. But, no, gentle visitors, we have not forgotten you. Instead, we have been busily engaged in preparing a new place for you.

Come see us at Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Game of War

Gentle visitors, from where your humble Contributor now sits, he can see, in the distance, the lapping waters of the Ebb and Flow Stream, less than a league from where she empties herself into the Great Shellfish Waters, herself being the drowned valley of the River of Long Reach, which, in turn, finds her source at the Glimmer Glass Lake (in the Land of the Last Mohican) -- where the Diamond Spirits gave the pale-face prophet Abner, the Man of Double Day, the gift of the bat, the base, and the ball -- and her deposit at the Harbor of Mercy.

In the foreground, he sees the battlefield marked with a fearsome perpendicularity and rectangularity -- at its heart, the awful stake. We speak not of the Little Brother of War -- that cross and combative match of the braves. No -- this is an engagement seemingly more gentile but, in truth, more noble and more savage. One finds himself, at once, marvelling at the elegant ettiquette and attire, and shuddering at the blows that would be struck there -- the soundless swing of the mallet before that sickening crack as it meets its mortal mark.

To be sure, it was long favored by the vicious Algonquins, but it quickly spread from the natives to the settlers -- especially upon their tiny, fescue fields beneath the cities -- though certain parsons of that time thought it "a pafftime moft wicket". Therefrom, it grew such that no great one among us has arrived unless he has endured the alternating states of deadness and aliveness and the cruel test of the lawn.

Indeed, to this fine day, were one to board the admirable bark anchored here at dock's end, and sail northward on the Great Shellfish Waters, beyond the Place Where Things Are Brought, all the way to the City of Ann, one might witness the Disciples of St. John and the Men of the Midship at this terrible sport.

We speak, of course, of croquet.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Miss Marcy Went To Say Something

Miss Marcy went to say something:
She opened her mouth...
But nothing came out.

Not nothing—something like
A gibber, a grunt—
But nothing she meant to say.

She could see the words all right,
The ones she meant to say:
The rises, the falls, the curlycues,
The stoutness of the vowels,
The steadiness at the bottom—
The way the words would sound
When spoken.
But, nothing came out.

Damn it all, she thought.
And, with her good hand,
She turned the wheel of her chair
So that she faced the window
At the far end of the corridor,
And watched the light spilling over the sill,
Rippling down the radiator,
And streaming across the tile.

How would it be, she thought,
If I were to get out of this chair,
And walk over toward you,
And take your hand,
And whisper something in your ear?
How would it be?

He liked that—she could tell—
But, why -- she could not say .

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Joe Manners - Proper Use of Napkins

Gentle visitors, no-one can claim that any of the regular of you lacks a keen sense of graciousness and decorum (lacks a basic common sense for returning to these pages? -- that's another matter entirely). Nonetheless, one of the alert poor relations from the sub-tundral regions has discovered a book entitled, "Etiquette for the Average Joe". Having not read this book, we can in no way endorse it; but, it does speak to our "inner Joe" -- the better part of all of us. And, there is that odd, uncouth visitor who would be well served with a few lessons in civility. Accordingly, here is the first lesson.

Awright. Listen up. What I am holdin' in my hand is what you call a "napkin". Youse didn't know this until just now. It's not your fault -- you're just stupid. Ok?

What you do with a napkin is you -- well, ok, like, you're gettin' fast food and there's this thing called a "dispenser" -- youse didn't know that. Then, you go to grab like a napkin and it rips. I can't stand that -- you go to grab just one napkin and it rips. Forget about that. Just pick up the dispenser and grab like 15 napkins. Throw 'em in the car. You never know -- you might spill somethin'. Whatever.

Or, like those paper towels in the can. I know-- youse don't wash your hands after you go. But, if you did, you wipe your hands on your pants, right? Not a problem. But, you go to grab like a paper towel and they're, like, hung up. Forget about that. Just grab 15. Throw 'em in the car. You never know.

Or, like the woman behind the counter, right? She don't speak English hardly -- she says, like, "may I take-a you orter". Whatever. Then, she gives you your MegaBurger and Super Fires and, like, 15 things of catch-up. 15! I don't know what's up with 15 -- what is it?-- it's like a magic number of somethin. I don' know. But, just take em', ok. Throw 'em in the car. You never know.

Now, what I am holding in my hands is -- Listen up! Yeah, you! You with the stupid look! Somebody smack 'im for me..... Stu-pid.... Awright, this is a cloth napkin. Trust me -- youse probably never saw this before.

Ok, maybe like you're goin' to your cousin Carmella's wedding, right? An', you go to sit down and there's one of these napkins like all folded up on the plate like a... like a... I don' know what. Somethin' nice.

Under no circumstance, do not touch it! Go back to the bar for a while. Have a few drinks. Then, come back. If everybody and his brother is sitting down, take the napkin and move it to the side. Let it sit there. If it comes undone, you messed up. Ok? Don't knock over the foldin' chair when you sit down. Don't tell Carmella she looks fat.

Awright. Next, we talk about utensils. Trust me -- youse don't know what they are.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Traffic Report, Sunday, April 17, 2005

My, my, gentle visitors, it's been too busy for words. Your humble contributor called away, last week, to Rome -- The Eternal City, Where All Roads Lead, Where The Buffalo, etc.

Thankfully, the air fares and hotel rates had receded slightly; though, we found the maid still cleaning up the room overlooking the Piazza di Spagna. "Scusa, scusa, Signore," she said, making the bed. "No problem, hon, take your time -- I just need a bottle of grappa and a place to put up my feet -- it's been a long flight."

Your humble contributor had come to meet with the Camerlengo to go over the settlement terms on the trademark suit with the St. Louis group. Just when things were wrapping up, the cardinal grabbed your humble Contributor's arm: "Howa bouta di papa?"

Of course, we had feared this might come up. "Look, padre, I know I could be elected, but I'm just not up for it right now. Capiche?" The cardinal looked crestfallen. "Ok, ok -- I'll try and help you out -- let's take a look at your line-up." He brightened and handed me the enrollment of the College.

Looking over the list: "I'll tell you what, padre, you got some heavy hitters here; a few minor leaguers; some ready to retire; some young prospects; some hall-of-famers. It's a tough call." The Camerlengo handed me a quill and gestured for me to mark-up the list. Hours scratching my head and scratching out names. Finally pared it down to nine. "Here. Just enough to field a team." "I don't get it," he said, "you know, the baseball," . "C'mon padre, your own guy was probably the best ever." He look mystified for a moment, then it dawned on him: "Si, si -- Giuseppe!"

Then, your humble Contributor circled a name on the list. "Here's your top pick, padre." The Camerlengo looked: "But, he's a no papabile." Your humble Contributor put on his jacket and picked up his briefcase: "They said that same thing about Rizutto. Just give me time to get home before your blow the white smoke. I don't want anyone to make the connection. And, toss that list in the chimney while your at it. Ciao." "Ciao. Graci, graci," he said, grasping the sheet.

Now, we're back home, filling the sede vacante. Come to find that someone is praising Green Acres, in derogation of a prior post, and that we had missed the birthday of Little Don (one of the poor relations). Gentle commenters, birthday greetings for Little Don would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Papal Sightings (con't)

So I caved in. Still skeptical as to the import of this "event," I nonetheless grabbed my instamatic camera to record history. I bounded down the steps with the brotherhood--Danny, David, and Ed--and we ran to join the crowds already lining up at, I guess 17th St., near the Old Executive Office.

Motorcades, even in a town famous for them, always are thrilling to watch even to the jaded. Everyone loves a parade, right! And there he was--the Pope! Standing in a black limousine, red cape rippling in the wind, hand waving. I snapped the button of my little plastic camera. Click! Got the Pope's back anyway.

"Let's follow him!" shouted Danny, who at well over six feet also had the longest legs. So we chased after the motorcade for some blocks, pushing through crowds and people--who had the good sense to station themselves at the Pan American Union (OAS) because they, of course, were prepared and knew the Pope would end up there.

Finally, squeezing through the many people there, we found a suitable space under the shade of a small tree and waited for the Pope to appear at a little second-story balcony. I don't remember, really, what he talked about. But we stayed there watching and listening to him for a while . . .

Well, dear reader, maybe this isn't the most moving account of an encounter with Pope John Paul II, but really it was much more than I had bargained for at the time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Word On "Space"

Gentle visitors, we have heard recent expressions of alarm about our apparent gaps in posting. You have asked (and, believe me, we have asked ourselves): are we slacking? are we uninspired? are we psuedonymously posing? These questions, we believe, fairly answer themselves.

Even so, we are grateful for your concern: it tells us that someone cares -- like the alert neighbor who notices that our grass is overgrown, our paint is pealing, our driveway is cracked, and our rusting, wheel-less 1981 Toyota pickup is resting on cinder blocks in the front yard, then promptly reports us to the community board and the county zoning office, leading to a citation and a chilly visit from the covenant enforcement gentleman from over on Broken Branch Court whose hair and lawn are clipped to within a micron tolerance. But, the truth is far from that.

As any (as if there were any) frequent visitor to these pages well knows, the editorial committee, hereunder, has long resisted the urge to fill these pages with bizarre or inconsequential pieces, just for the sake of posting something. More recently, we engaged a Feng Shui consultant who, having examined your humble Contributor's mind and thought processes, and the relative merit of the content of these pages, cried out, "Empty!", like some ancient, possessed oracle.

We took this to mean that we needed to create a space in our editorial floorplan: some room to breath, as it were, to stretch out, to ponder things, to consider objects and intervals, to put up our analytical feet, to doze, to snore, and to awaken with a start, confused and with a slight drool at the corners of our prosaic mouths. That is, to make these pages our own personal central Illinois. This "way of being", we believe -- filled as it is with space -- will permit us to reach greater levels of depth on subjects most relevant to our visitors, such as, say, the biomechanics of knuckles.

And, what a relief this new space has been from the 24/7, go-go-go, double-shot-expresso-in-hand milieu of these latter days. But, fear not, gentle visitors, this does not signal a substantial change to our editorial policy.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Baseball Explained

Gentle visitors, some foreigners who frequent these pages have implored us for a simple explanation of baseball. (These folks were raised on such sports as cricket, croquet, and curling. Nothing wrong with these athletical distractions -- not at all. We have treated curling in passing; croquet -- to be sure -- in some future meditation; and, cricket -- yes -- once we get the point of it.) At the same time, we have had a request for more baseball poetry: a redundance since the game itself is poetry -- a bit like a request to gild the lily.

But, nonetheless... nonetheless, we mean to serve (a tennis term, by the way) -- thus, the following, simple, poetical explanation of a "strike".

A strike is a pitch swung at and missed

(or, one not swung on at all but so called
by that certain masked, padded, dark-vested
gentleman styled "the umpire",
who crouches behind that other masked and padded
[though jerseyed] man catching said
missed or dismissed pitch,
to the extent that, in the unappealable judgment
of said umpire, the ball breaks an imaginary and approximate
box suspended over home plate
[a pentagonal affair -- hard rubber --
where the most important events transpire],
bounded by the plate itself
and the knees and "letters" of the batter,
as determined by his relative size and contraction,
the general reputation of the pitcher, and
the eyesight of the said umpish gent
[often a matter of concern and speculation
by those witnessing the sporting exhibition,
who are all, apparently, avocational optometrists ],

or, a pitch hit into a foul territory --
that is to say, an untoward place
demarcated by a straight, chalky line,
such that there is a great abyss fixed
between what is foul and what is fair --

unless such struck ball is caught,
in which case it is an out,

unless the foul is not caught
and would otherwise be the third strike,
in which case it is a nought,

unless the batter is trying a bunt,
[a cute maneuver -- if "cute" could ever be used
with the proper gravitas for the sport--
in which the batter does not swung,
but, rather, places the bat in front of the ball
in order that said ball be nudged
{again, an inadequate term}
a few feet forward, in the fervent hope
of advancing himself or other runners
along the base-paths]
and, contrary to the batters intent,
the ball goes foul (see above)
in which case it is a strike,

unless it would otherwise be a third strike
and the catcher does not catch the ball
[a paradox that -- otherwise, why the title?]
and the batter reaches the first base
before the catcher can throw the ball
to that person assigned to cover first base
or otherwise tag him out,
in which case it is technically a strike
and, per force, a strike out
but not scored as such).

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Signs & Wonders

Gentle visitor, your humble Contributor rising voluntarily before 6 a.m. is a terrestrial event of such rarity that the annals of such things contains scant mention of it. He is of the most reasonable opinion that, having retired after the sun sets, one should not rise before the sun also rises -- or, at least, not before it suggests itself on the eastern horizon. To do otherwise would be an affront to the gods upon whom your humble Contributor relies for something resembling a lawn.

Nonetheless, yesterday morning, he made an exception -- stumbling from his repose in his ceremonial fuzzy slippers (upon reflection, each on the wrong foot), donning his characteristic death mask of morning, and sporting a Kafkaesque coiffure. Then, there came the tense moments of decision -- does the ground coffee go in the filter or the water container? -- what does the "on" button do? -- should one place the carafe below the basket or allow the brewed coffee to flow onto the counter and, thence, the floor? -- each question made virtually insoluble by an EEM (Extreme Early Morning) operating mental capacity slightly below a common marsh rice rat.

All this to witness an ancient ritual in Latin, Italian, and Greek, with some grace notes of Arabic, Tagalog, and Swahili. That it was ancient was apparent -- a solemn liturgy that has changed relatively little over the centuries; vestments that were more or less settled 1500 years ago; and, a setting that reaches back, well beyond the Renaissance, to the ragtag Semites dragged in chains to the ancient Imperial City. Yet, it was new in the many countries represented -- paying tribute not to the Emperor but to the "Papa" -- and the relative youth of those who attended. What old man who, finally, cannot walk or even speak can command such love of those who are bright-eyed, fresh-faced, and on the move.

Maybe the young have learned something from the ancients, who saw portents in signs and wonders: whether the terrestrial or the celestial -- such as the rare, hybrid eclipse of yesterday. One ancient saint is said to have referred to the late pope the "labor of the sun", who was born in the penumbra of a magnificant partial eclipse on May 18, 1920. Hard to tell, but it does point out the poetic and, even, romantic longing in many hearts -- especially as against skepticism, cynicism, and ennui.

Surely, the massive celebration of the life of a good and great man leads one to believe that it's all about something. Or, failing that, that ministers from Iran, Syria, and Israel wished each other peace. Or, failing that, that your humble Contributor voluntarily rose before the rose-fingered dawn.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Papal Sightings

In the days since the death of the late Pope John Paul II, I like many others have been reflecting of the impact of this man on the world, and for many of us, on our own lives. I can't resist telling my story of my own first "encounter" (non-encounter?) with the Pope.

I was coming home from a drudge weekend job at The Liberal-Rag-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. I worked part-time in the circulation complaints department--hey, the money was good; I was a desperate college student. As I ended my work day--sometime around noonish--and walked through Lafayette Park, I noticed a big crowd gathered on the White House front lawn. Everyone was milling around the north entrance, some picture taking, etc. Then all of sudden, the crowd parted--and there was the Pope.

Even for a lapsed Catholic who had no clue the Pope was in town I was caught off guard by the site of him. Oddly, I recall few people besides me in the park as I picked up my pace to see more of the goings on. I just stood there feeling like I had happened onto a private gathering, watching as the Pope as he turned his back and was ushered into the White House, by I suppose, Ronald Reagan.

I made my way back to my fraternity house, where the brothers were all aflutter because--the Pope was in town. (I had no idea until a few minutes earlier.) "Whaddya mean you're not going to see the Pope!" said Danny, who is Jewish, as were all my brothers except for an odd Muslim or two, and from Bayside, N.Y. "We're all going! This is a big deal. And you're Catholic!" (Little did he know.)

So Danny looked at me as if I was some kind of freak for being so detached.

(To be continued . . . )

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Lawn God

Pray to the god of verdure,
To the Ancient Greener of Seed;
Lay down your lime, spread your peat, and
Spray your weed and feed.

Sow in the arms of summer,
To the humunous womb of the Earth;
Grow your rye, your fescue, blue, and
Mow when the blades give birth.

Cry to the West for moisture,
To the East for heat and light;
Dry your eyes, bide your time, and
Ply 'til the foil is bright.

Say to the god of winter,
To the winds of the North unsound,
"May the soil stay rich, the roots stay firm," then
Lay down on the hoary ground.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Romish Remembrance

Gentle visitors, would that any of us would have a hundred thousand well-wishers standing vigil outside our window, as we lay dying.

Your humble Contributors expects something close to that number when his time comes -- only, said crowd would be peopled with angry creditors, disgruntled clients, former friends and neighbors seeking to reclaim books and various garden implements, and, of course, largely disappointed poor relations importuning for a last codicil that would render some pittance from himself's meager estate.

How well your humble Contributor remembers the time when Polish jokes suddenly became passe. Yes, we loved the Italians: but, four hundred years of them? Sure, scallopini, cacciatori, parmigiana, marinara, antipasti -- but, we were ready for some pierogi.

So, it was, that your humble Contributor -- still a mere scruff of a lad -- found himself sitting across a table from Lech in a dingy, Gdansk greasehouse, over a plate of kapusta and a glass of Zlota Woda, struggling to understand his Northern Polish accent. It was, "charlie-ski" this, and "charlie-ski" that.

Finally, one had to lean over to Lech's lieutenant, who'd spend a few terms at Lublin, and ask, "Who is he talking about?". "Why," he said, "the Holy Father." Then, after the glass was filled a few times, one had to lean over and ask, "Whatisthisschtuffit'sgood." The answer came, "Aqua vitae, my friend -- the "water of life" -- here... let me help you back into your seat."

Next day -- no hangover -- and off, via mule and a secret route to Vienna, thence on a train south across the Alps. One figures, "when in Rome....." So, a few contacts at the Curia, a few bottles of Zlota Wota and fresh links of kielbasa placed in the right hands. , and -- next thing you know -- a private audience with Papa.

To be sure, he was a poet and a philosopher --still hale, before the Turk's near miss (a pair of skiis propped in the corner) -- a sparkle in his eye - yes, he was known as a wag in school. "Well, you've heard my plan. I'll need a few more years yet," he said. "Come back, and we'll talk further. More wine?". One had to ask, "But, how can this possibly be done? You have no divisions or legions." He smiled. "Think Pole -- and, give my best to Dutch."

Now, he's gone; but, it's hard to feel very distraught. His suffering is over, and many come to celebrate a life well led, and a life -- by most accounts -- that continues. Viva il papa.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Paradox of Loss

As a youngster, your humble Contributor was a huge fan of the Washington Senators. Students of baseball history would quickly note that the young Contributor had no reason for his devotion. Not since the days of Walter "Big Train" Johnson had the Senators been real contenders. In fact, the Senators your young Contributor worshipped were the second incarnation of the team -- the earlier having hit the road for Minneapolis in 1961.

But, still, there were always glimmers of hope: Frank Howard at the bat -- would he knock one out of the park? Or, far more likely, strikeout? Ted Williams -- Hall of Famer -- would he lead the Senators to the World Series? Or, not? Denny McLain -- the last 30-game winner in the majors -- would he be the ticket? Or, just an arm no better than my grandmother's? (No offense, Grannie.)

The ultimate answer was this: in 1971, the Senators hit the road for Texas. And, the poor, tender fan was left with the choice of rooting for the Orioles -- the arch-enemies who would occasionally roll down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and visit some cruel and unusual punishment upon the Senators, then pile back on the bus -- or nothing. It would have to be nothing.

The loss of a largely losing team -- hardly something to mourn, unless one understands the metaphysical import of baseball. Recall the spiritual struggle at the heart of Damn Yankees.

This will have been a week of loss -- a loss of a man remembered ritually on the liturgical calendar -- a loss of a lady coming at the end of perhaps an unsurpassed string of legal losses -- and, a loss of an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life.

But, loss is the prerequisite for any real gain -- without loss, one cannot step into faith and trust in something unseen and unrealized. Winning does not force such a movement. Yet, loss is the thing -- paradoxically -- that drives ultimate victory, even if the relationship is mysterious. If the world is a stage, then loss, or apparent loss, in the engine of the drama. It is the sign of contradiction -- a stumbling block to some, a revelation to others -- the seed that falls to the ground and dies.

Next week, the Washington Nationals will open their season, and the spring begins, and the seed that has died bear fruit. Maybe there is a such thing as resurrection.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Old Jack Ketch

Michael Schiavo hired Ronald Cranford, M.D., a neurologist, to examine his estranged wife Terri a few years back, and he kept him on as one of Terri's physicians. Dr. Cranford's testimony led to the judgment that Terri was in a "persistent vegetative state." It is now widely reported that Dr. Cranford has been a long-time "right-to-die" activist, associated with the Hemlock Society (peopled by such folks as Derek Humphry and Jack Kevorkian) and "Choices In Dying" (successor to the Euthanasia Society of America). He calls himself "Dr. Humane Death." This report put me in mind of an excellent article on this "movement" of four years ago, which mentions Dr. Cranford, as well as a verse from the archives on the original "Dr. Death.".
* * * * *

Life is death and death is life:
Hug the children, kiss the wife,
Gather round the kin and friend,
Seal the will and make an end.
Now, for all the world a wretch,
Hand your hat to old Jack Ketch.

Call the guy from Michigan—
Surgeon, healer, handyman,
Gray and speckled, mean and lank—
Bid him bring his CO tank,
(Who in Dearborn would have thought,
What combustion here has wrought.)

Check the settings, fit the cask,
Pull the lever, don the mask,
Breathe the fumes of sweet exhaust;
All the world goes dim and lost.
Now, upon the couch you stretch,
Grasp the hand of old Jack Ketch.
Bulging eyes and ringing ears
(Devils of these hundred years);
Rapid pulse and vertigo
(Adolf, Idi, Uncle Joe...);
Pounding heart and throbbing head
(Hundred million people dead).

Twitching frame and bluish lip;
Close the lids and loose the grip.
All the world is short of breath,
Choking in the age of death:
Now, upon the couch you stretch,
Die in arms of old Jack Ketch.
(Stop the lever, pop the cork,)
(Raise a glass to Doc Kevork.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Truth Is

"Truth is a power, however, only when one requires of it no immediate effect, but has patience and figures on a long wait. Still better, when one does not in general think about its effects but wants to present truth for its own sake, for its holy, divine greatness. . . . As already said, one must have patience. Here months may mean nothing and also years. And one must have no specific aims. Somehow, lack of an agenda is the greatest power. Sometimes, especially in recent years, I had the sense that truth was standing as a reality in the room." -- Romano Guardini, Catholic theologian, writing in 1945, in his twelfth year living under Nazi rule.

In an age of rampant agendas and poison ideologies, this seems worth noting.

(Thanks to Rev. Richard John Neuhaus)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Traffic Report, Monday, March 28, 2005

Your humble Contributor far afield these days in his traditional post-Easter trip. He has now found an ether suitable for posting in a sunny bistro, empty but for his own enigmatic person. Sunny, yes -- but, it has not been so until lately. Let's listen in.

Wendy: Oh, bother! I can't keep my hair in order.

Gail: Do tell! A kerchief is positively useless!

Reighne: Now ladies -- these are just two of the ancient elements -- air and water. How could they possible trouble you?

Wendy: Easy for you to say -- you have only to run a comb across the few strands of your head to set them straight again.

Reighne: My, my! No need to be uncivil. But -- now that you mention it -- the strand's the thing, don't you agree?

Hale: Quite right!

Sandy: What, ho, ladies and gents! Goodness, ladies -- why, the melancholic affectations?

Wendy: Well, if you must know, we are enduring the onslaught the Reighne and Hale.

Reighne: [chuckling] I ask you, Sandy, have you ever known Hale to come down hard on anyone?

Sandy: Perish the thought: no more than Gail so much as stirring a leaf.

Hale: And, hasn't Reighne the sunniest of dispositions?

Sandy: Of course.

Gail: But, it does seem that the labor and time at our coiffures has come to naught by some unknown disturbance, accompanied by ambient moisture. I'm for repairing to the cottage.

Sandy: Well, I should hope not. Surely, the calmness of the parlor becomes tedious even to you. Therefore, tie back your locks or let them go -- at your pleasure -- but, by all means, let's go out and meet Myrtle.

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Bad Habit Is Hard To Break

File this under "Has Been A Nun."

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Like The Sun From Out The Wave

"God paid a ransom to save us from the impossible road to heaven which our fathers tried to take, and the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for us with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God." -- Peter 1:18-19

“They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”

-- G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

In a sense, it is easy to be an "Easter " person. Glory. Joy. Sadness forgotten.

But the joy has no depth, no substance, unless we remember that there is no Easter without Good Friday. Without the misery of Hell, we have no glory of Heaven.

We cannot fool ourselves that life is all Easter Sundays. The Good Fridays will come to us. As a wise priest once said, if you haven't seen Good Friday yet, if you haven't yours yet, don't worry, it will find you. But the glory of Easter, the abiding joy that exists even in the face of suffering and death, is what transcends the Good Fridays of our existence.

Christ's Resurrection is not a metaphor. It is not a myth borne of group hypnosis. And it is not just emotional anaesthetic to help us believe in a loving world of round edges and happy endings. Easter celebrates a historical fact that provides a new and permanent way of seeing the world and making sense of the whole sweep of history and of our own, individual lives.

As Chesterton notes, the Death and Resurrection of Christ ended the old world with brilliant and Satan-crushing finality, and opened the door to a mind-shattering new eternity. Christ, in his Resurrection, brings us to the threshold of hope, to a wondrous new Eden.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Motor Cross

The days of metal long since passed,
And level dashes rounded out
To sloping vinyl frontages,
And cushioned for the crash.

To where the Lord cannot abide,
But there, below and in between,
Beside the coins and polished knobs
And tray collecting ash.

And, there, he hangs in tarnished pain,
The useless magnet at his feet,
Until the driver takes a turn
And spins him to his wreck.

On plastic lays the Savior's head --
The weak adhesive given out --
To where the driver shifts his eyes
And hopes to resurrect.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Post Judgment

GREER: Pontius! Good to see you.

WHITTEMORE: Caiaphas. How are you doing?

GREER: I'm allright. Whew! Wall to wall. Plus, I've had my normal docket. We had to cancel the cruise, and, boy were things frosty at home. But, I think I can we can finally get away for a little bit.

WHITTEMORE: Great. Not around here I hope.

GREER: No. God, no. I have a friend with a villa on St. Croix. The season's slowing down, so it should work out fine.


GREER: Hey, listen, thanks for covering for me on the case.

WHITTEMORE: Hey, it was nothing. Washed my hands of it.

GREER: Well, I still appreciate it. You don't know how hard it was to keep a straight face on the bench for some of this. A "Congressional subpoena" no less. Then, some gal from the Adult Protective Service with a stack of affidavits. God, we were cracking up in chambers. I had my clerk special order a "Denied" stamp.

WHITTEMORE: [chuckles] I'll bet. I heard "de novo" "due process" "right to life" "starvation" "Americans with Disabilities Act", and I was thinking, "yadaydaydayda". I almost told these guys to get on the court calendar for July.

GREER: [chuckles] Hey, by the way, how many people with PVS does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

WHITTEMORE: [chuckles] I think I've heard this one before.

GREER: [chuckles] Hey, are we gonna see you down at the club tomorrow?

WHITTEMORE: Unless something blows up again... sure.

GREER: You know, Herod can play. Let me see if I can find a fourth and we'll hit 18. Say, around 8 or 9?

WHITTEMORE: Sounds good. I haven't played in a month, though, and my game sucks.

GREER: Right -- you're just gonna take my money. This is all I have [pulls out pocket full of coins].

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Paper Cup

Take the cup.
Pull it down between your fingers.
Fill it up.
Draw until it’s spilling over.
Lift it to your parted lips.

Knock it back.
Tip until the rim is swollen.
Crush it flat.
Let it pass into the woven basket.
Know the hour of sleep has come.

And not thy will but mine be done.
Stop the tap.
Stare into the spotted mirror.
Turn the knob.
Peer into the darkened hallway.
See the whorls of knotted oak.

Hit the switch.
Hear the sound of dust and murmur.
Take a step.
Feel the grain of flesh and weakness.
Know the hour has finally come.
And not my will but thine be done.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

They Eat, They Drink

Strange to note that the climax of the long saga of Terri Schiavo seems to be tracking Holy Week -- the days beginning Palm Sunday, through Holy (or Maundy) Thursday, Good Friday, to Easter, which most Christians churches observe (though, the Orthodox church, often, at a different time, because of the way they calculate Easter -- a moveable feast -- on the calendar.)

The "Schiavo Bill", passed by Congress very late on Sunday morning, has already been dubbed the "Palm Sunday Compromise" by those who, in addition to being movers and shakers, are also apparently namers. Great forces are at work, on both sides, over one woman, who, by any estimation, is absolutely helpless before them; mute; without a remedy, herself, in a land overflowing with remedies; with nothing to eat and nothing to drink in a land of plenty.

For Christians marking it, Holy Week is a doleful time. In a sense, as the week progresses, it becomes increasingly foreboding and desparate -- suggestions of treachery and of death coming. There is a revealing, final meal -- then, nothing more is consumed. Instead, comes anguish, betrayal, lack of due process -- if you will -- torture, infamy, and suffering. Through this, the victim is largely, strangely mute and yielding. At the point of death, he says, "I thirst."

Your humble Contributor -- whose spiritual resume reads like a postal employee with a drinking problem, many personal grudges, and a penchant for firearms -- nonetheless holds a little booklet of readings for this week. And, what is remarkable to him is not so much the theme of the Christian scriptures, but that of the Jewish scriptures.

Consider this reading for today, from Psalm 55 (in the feminine gender):
My foes are speaking evil against me.
"How long before she dies and her name be forgotten?"
They come to visit me and speak empty words,
their hearts full of malice, they spread it abroad.

My enemies whisper together against me.
They all weigh up the evil which is on me:
"Some deadly thing has fastened upon her,
She will not rise again from where she lies."
Thus even my friend, in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread, has turned against me.
Or, this reading from Isaiah 21:
A cruel sight, revealed to me: the traitor betrays, the despoiler spoils. My mind reels, shuddering assails me; My yearning for twilight has turned into dread.

They set the table, spread out the rugs; they eat, they drink.
Maybe it means nothing. Maybe Terri Schiavo feels nothing. Maybe her hunger and thirst consume her and break her down in dread, emptiness, and desparation. And, maybe no-one will ever know.

Or, maybe, like the week, it resolves in hope, fullness, and remedy.

Why The Caged Bird Sings

An old priest once told me this story.

One day, a man came across a young boy carrying a banged up birdcage. Inside the cage were two small birds.

“Where’d you get the birds?” the man asked.

“I caught ‘em,” the boy said.

“Really? What are you going to do with them?”

“I don’t know,” said the boy. “Play with 'em, I guess. Shake the cage, dangle a string through the bars, tease ‘em, feed ‘em worms, I don’t know.”

“What are you going to do with them once you get tired of them?” asked the man. “You can’t play with them forever.”

“When I get tired of 'em? I don't know. I guess I’ll feed ‘em to my cat. He likes birds.”

The man asked, “How much do you want for them?”

The boy looked surprised. “What do you want these birds for, Mister? They’re nothing special. They ain’t worth anything.”

“How much do you want?” the man repeated.

The boy was still surprised. “Look, they’re just field birds. They ain't good for nothin'. They can’t sing. You can’t eat ‘em. They ain’t even pretty to look at. You don’t want these birds.”

The man repeated: “How much do you want?”

The boy eyed the man closely, and said, “How much you got, Mister?”

The man looked at the birds for a moment, then took out his wallet and handed the boy all the money in it – he wasn’t sure how much. Then, he bent down to lift the cage as the boy counted his money.

He walked into an alley between two buildings, and set down the cage. He knelt, opened the cage door, and tapped on the bars, hoping the birds would fly away.

Monday, March 21, 2005

School of Miracle Work, Spring Exam

Hereunder has acquired a copy of the spring exam administered to the Mystic University School of Miracle Work graduate students, just before they left for Easter Break. Let's hope they studied for it.

Please address one of the following three situations.

1. A small, insignificant tribe of people known as the Israelites were, until recently, enslaved in Egypt. As a class project, you have visited seven plagues upon their Egyptian masters, until their leader -- we'll call him "Pharaoh" -- is personally afflicted and finally sees this as a divine augur of the Cat god that he should cut his losses and let the miserable tribe go free. You believe your work is done here, and you give the bedraggled Israelites Spock's universal space-time-continuum high sign --"Live long and prosper" -- then, send them on their way.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to consult MapQuest,and the tribe now finds themselves on the wrong side of the Red Sea. Meanwhile, Pharaoh has come to his senses and, boy, is he ticked. He's sent his army, loaded to bear, in hot pursuit of the wandering tribe, with orders to cut down every man, woman, and child among them. The tribe is armed only with a few sticks, a bottle or two of Manischewitz, and some leftover Passover matzo.

Your task is to save the Israelites from the Egyptian army, preferably by parting the Red Sea long enough for this slow-moving bunch to cross to the other side, but not so long that the Sea doesn't fall back upon Pharaoh's army, none of whom can swim, especially in heavy combat gear.

2. The Philistines are lording it over your tribe in a big way -- killing, raping, pillaging, burning -- you name it. Your guys are no match for them. Things look bleak.

Just for kicks, they suggest that you send your best guy against their best guy, and, the side of whoever wins gets to slaughter the other side, plus 50% of the gate. Unfortunately, their best guy -- we'll call him "Goliath" -- is about 100 cubits high and is armed to the teeth. Put it this way -- he would make a tag team of the Hulk and the Rock look like a pair of snivelling pipsqueaks.

Understandably, you have no volunteers -- except a kid who has tagged along with his older brothers. This kid -- who's about seven years of short of lawfully drinking Mogen David -- spends most of his time tending sheep. He says he's handy with a slingshot.

Your task is to help the kid take down Goliath in a single stroke without taking so much as a scratch himself.

3. You work for 535 of the most egotistical, bombastic, and irascible folks known to man. As a general matter, they are moved only by large monetary contributions, fully-funded junkets to tropical places, and photo opportunities. For weeks, this crowd been debating and maneuvering and filibustering a variety of legislative initiatives that concern just short of 300 million people in the most powerful nation on earth. Now, they've gone home --hundreds and thousands miles away -- for a two-week vacation, and, finally, you can breathe easy and get those Easter eggs for your nieces and nephews painted.

Meanwhile, an insignificant, brain-damaged woman in a hospice in Florida is dying because her estranged husband, who has a new family, decided that she should have no more food or fluids. Her parents and siblings want her to live and are willing to care for her and to pay for this care for so long as she lives. They have nothing to gain by this, except the marginal life of their daughter and sister, and they have incurred great cost in trying to save her life. The husband, however, will receive his estranged wife's estate when she dies.

Unfortunately, the parents and siblings have lost almost every hearing and appeal and now have no more options. The woman has not had food or fluids in a couple of days. After three days, she will begin a rapid physical decline. In ten days, she will be dead.

Your task is to bring a sufficient number of the 535 most egotistical, bombastic, and irascible folks known to man back from their vacation, after just two days, late on a Sunday night, to pass a bill intended just for this single, insignificant, brain-damaged woman, to give her family one more chance to save her life.


Note: extra credit will be given for option No. 3, since it is the most difficult task.

Good luck, and enjoy your break.

Car Spree: Part II

Check out the ending in last comment . . .

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Sporting Admonition

As spring breaks o’er the horizon,
our minds are stirred from their winter slumber
to thoughts of re-creation,
In keeping with the gentler clime of this verdant season.

We are called, as it were, by the lengthening of days
to pursue sports of the earth reborn:
Whither the pristine greens and tees of the links,
filled with idle banter, manners, and birdies,
Or the dust and grit of the ballfield,
sparked by the crack of fired hickory and
the pop of horsehide on burnished leather.

And though some argue the former's virtue,
few debate that the latter pursuit is the nobler,
by merit and by nature.
For, while one is not without its traps and hazards,
the other tests the mettle of its players
with each pitch, each hit, and each catch.
And, where the course meanders and slopes
in uneven pars and yards,
The diamond shines in exact symmetry and geometry
of line, angle, and plane.

Still more, it is marked by mystical triads:
three bases, three strikes, three outs;
the earthen and linear trinity of battery and batter interposed;
the latter progressing towards his destiny by three steps—
in the hole, on deck, at bat;
And, all of these bound and animated by perfect squares of three—
nine innings, nine players.

Indeed, we might compare the gallant batter,
who grabs a handful of dirt, spits defiantly, and digs-in at the plate,
facing a fierce-eyed, well-armed pitcher,
who fires a stitched and scuffed missile,
hurtling at break-bone speed, amid the din of an unruly crowd,—
Compare him to the genteel golfer,
who steps lightly from his cart,
brushing lint from his starched slacks,
picks from among his duffled and muffled clubs,
and addresses a passive, dimpled ball,
fretting over some small leaf or twig in its path, all in hushed silence.

Friends, this is the silence of walking sleep,
of soft footfalls and strokes on tidy, luscious lawns,
pocked only by small sods making space for little divots:
A silence broken only by the occasional oath
and the whirring of electric motors along ways fair and wide
and paths paved and easy.
These handicapped hackers are left to lift the pin for the slowly rolling ball
and to shag the sliced drive at dogleg's turn.
Yet, should we, the waking, not walk the line,
beat the throw, stretch the hit, cover the bases,
and, at length, come home?
Should we not barter spikes and banish plaids?
Trade putts for slugs, bags for baggers, and holes for homers?

Awaken, then, the vernal calls you! Arise from your hibernal bed!
Revive the Babe, rouse the Man!
Pull on the stockings, gird the jersey, and don the cap (to doff it hence).
Then seize the bat and swing it mighty.
For, the equinox is upon us, and the day is at hand!
Yonder breaks the bursting sun, burning mists above
the field of battle,
the batting field of mythic feats.
Awaken, friends, awaken from your dreams!
Arise and face the op’ning day!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Feast of St. Joseph

Hard to think of a better name for a guy than Joe.

Think about it. A Joe is a regular guy: nothing fancy, nothing spectacular (apparently). Just a decent, down-to-earth guy. There when you need a hand or a friend. Steady. Welcome. Regular. A Joe's very presence is often healing; his bearing, strong; his skill, athletic; his sense, down-home literary.

Not all Joe's are saints: true, a few have gone bad; but, note that they usually go by their last names, so shameful is their disgrace. No-one's ever heard of a "bad Joe" or an "irregular Joe". This is no coincidence. Most Joes are known, like the original Saint, as patrons and protectors of families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travellers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers and working people in general. Who's left? Not many.

Sure -- the elite love to demean Joe by giving him the dismissive surname -- Blow, Bloggs, Doakes, and Sixpack. Yeah, well... when was the last time a Distinguished Professor of Eclectic Studies named Theodore stopped to help you change your tire?

Don't get me wrong--there are other wonderful names. But, as wonderful as they are, they all have their flaws. Richard, for example, suggests nobility and courage; but, how does one wear that name nowadays? Well, there's Rick? Calls to mind the illustrious Mr. Springfield. How about Rich? Little there. One's last choice, then, is Dick. 'Nough said.

And, John -- magnificent name. Plain -- maybe too plain. Common -- though, not in same solid, comforting way of Joe. Moreover, John's associations are unseemly.

And, take Harry (please). The very name conveys action and urgency -- like something is about to happen. Unfortunately, it's often a happening we don't relish.

What? Ned? Can someone tell us where "Ned" comes from? It would seem more prudent not to inquire. Ted, you say? Don't get some of us started.

Clive? Well, of course, it suggests a certain wisdom and generosity. But, it doesn't translate well in the States.

Sadly, the troubling associations continue. Rob? That's easy. Bob? Helplessly tossed by the waves. Bill? Something else to pay. Fred? Flinstone comes to mind. Pat? Too soft.

No. When you get right down to it, there's just nothing like a Joe -- just nothing like a good cup of coffee.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Car Buying Spree?

Admittedly, this will be a self-serving sort of post that is counting on the goodwill and the expertise of Hereunder fans (you know who your are!). I'm venturing into the shadowy underworld of buying a car--a minivan. The Dodge Caravan we've had, alas, has been tempermental from the outset--time to trade her in! No regrets.

I'm thinking about going to, one of those no-haggle places. (Admit it, the last place any of us wants to be is across the desk from a car salesman in a Hawaiian print shirt, who will go check with his "hard-nosed boss," just one more time for Joe Consumer, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah . . . ) --yeah, right. Is anybody really there behind the door. And if so, what do they talk about in those tete-a-tetes?)

So, if anybody out there has any sage advice or cautionary tales for this intrepid would-be car buyer (yes, even at trust no car salesman) please post comment soonest!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Feast of St. Patrick

Girl, are ye online?

I am.

Well, now, I couldn't tell -- I saw somethin' like a shamrock pop up, like.

Sure, that's me icon for the day. I put it up there for the Poor Relations in America.

Is that the way?

'Tis. Y'see, they taught it would be great fun to chat, like, on St. Paddy's day. And, sure, they tink Ireland's filled with nothin' but shamrocks.

Do they?

They do. And, a course, the Poor Relations from down the road have gone over just for the week, just to celebrate the Day. They say the Yanks make much more of it over there than here. Sure, one said that he'd seen more leprechauns in one day there than he'd seen in a lifetime in Kerry. And, everywhere ye turn another St. Patrick comes stroling along with his miter and his crozier and so forth. Sure, they said, it's just like Tir na n'Og.


And, here's meself, all alone. Himeself is off with that crowd of his in Dublin. So, God save me, I went down to that new Italian place in town for bit of dinner.

Ah, now, ye're pullin' me leg.

Not at tall, not at tall. Sure, I ate somethin' they call 'ling gweeny', as tasty as you like. Den, the proprietor comes over an' says, "Do ye know that St. Patrick was Italian?" An', I says, "What on earth are ye talkin' about?"

He says, "Sure, he came straight over on a boat from Rome. They say the Pope himself sent 'im an' told 'im to go over and straighten out those wild Irish. An' he said, 'Not on your life, Holy Father -- sure, if Caesar himself couldn't bring dem to heel, your humble servant's not likely ta succeed -- sure, even your own holy person would have great trouble with that lot. Sorry, Father, I'm not your man.' But, in the end, off he went.'"

Sure, that can't be right.

Well, tink about it for just half a moment an', sure, y'know it must be false. For, if it were true, den me own boy Sean would be call "lueegee" or somethin'. Sure, we be eating pasta instead of praties. We'd all have our skin burnt, like, in what they call a "tan". An', a course, there wouldn't be a drop of tea to be found over all of Ireland.

Not at tall.

So, I set him right on that.

Good girl. Now, what's that music, like, I hear playin?

Oh, that just Himself with his playboys on the pipes -- streamin' in from Dublin. Sure, I wish he'd put as much energy into keeping the place in good repair.

But, sure, he's a fine, musical man.

That he is.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

And Not A Drop to Drink

Terri Schiavo is a 41-year old woman who is brain damaged and who some doctors say is "in a persistent vegetative state." For this reason, her husband has decided to remove the tube that gives her food and water.

Terri's parents went to court to try to stop her husband. Florida's legislature has passed laws to stop her being starved and dehydrated to death. At each turn, the state courts in Florida ultimately have denied efforts to keep her alive. Today, a judge in Florida again ruled that the tube keeping Terri alive should be removed.

It appears that, unless the U.S. Congress can act in the next three days, before they leave town for Easter recess, Terri will surely die. She is quite unlikely to survive until Congress returns from its break.

Terri's parents do not seek "extraordinary" means to keep her alive. They simply want her to get food and water. They also believe that physical therapy will help her eventually to swallow on her own. Other doctors believe that, with help, Terri might recover.

Terri's husband, who has been living with his girlfriend long enough to have two children by her, claims that he loves Terri and that Terri told him she did not want to be kept alive, even by routine feeding and hydrating methods. He has no evidence of this -- no living will, no documents, no notes, no witnesses, no nothing.

There are other elements of this case that raise questions. According to Wesley J. Smith, a lawyer who has researched this case exhaustively:

* Terri's husband told a jury in Terri's 1992 malpractice trial that Terri would live a normal life span. Get it? The long her life expectancy, the bigger the jury award.

* Once Terri won a $1.3 million verdict, Terri's husband paid off his hired gun and also put 300 grand in his own pocket, but he never began rehabilitation for Terri. In fact, the evidence is that, at first, Terri's husband tried to save the $750,000 initially put aside into Terri's treatment fund. He immediately put a "Do Not Resusitate" card on his wife's chart -- the better to kill her with. He would not even permit Terri to be given antibiotics to fight infections. In fact, in the five years between 1993 and 1998, he spent only $50,000 on her.

* Once Terri's parents began to put up a fight, Terri's husband spent most of the $750,000 allegedly put away for Terri's treatment has been spent on lawyers to lead the charge to expedite Terri's demise. About $450,000 of the "Terri Fund" has been paid to Terri's husband's lawyers. Another $200,000 went to expenses not intended to ensure Terri's continuing survival. But still her parents fight to keep her alive. So much for the argument that Terri's parents sought custody to "get the money" for themselves. There is no money. In fact, her father has depleted his own retirement fund trying to keep her alive.

So it comes down to Congress. Democrats in Congress, with a couple of exceptions, and even many Republicans, will not sound even a dry cough to ensure that Terri gets help. More-sanctimonious-than-thou Robert Byrd, easily one of the crassest politicians in Washington, but someone who, at least, would kick a bottle of Poland Spring with the toe of his shiny Bruno Maglis to a drunken, cotton-mouthed bum sprawled on the sidewalk, cannot raise the energy to support legislation that might keep Terri alive. And so, very soon, without a hoarse whisper from the most powerful legislative bodies in the world, Terri will probably die.

It's enough to drive you to drink.