Saturday, 21 June 2008

Barbaras and Bristols

Last weekend I was on Staten Island, NY for the 50th wedding anniversary celebrations for my cousin by marriage “Kippy” (Catherine) Altini and her husband “Marty” (Martin).

This surprise party had been master-minded by their daughter Barbara Altini O’Brien. She had been planning the event for a year, and wondrously managed to keep it totally secret from her parents.

Today (June 21st) I had lunch with my dear Barbara Hauler, and her husband Donald. You will remember that they too celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary, and I joined in their family celebrations at “Disney” in Orlando a couple of weeks ago.

After those celebrations Don and Barbara Hauler travelled to South Florida. They called yesterday to see if we could meet for lunch in SRQ on their way North. That we did, my good friend Ben joining us.

It is Ben’s birthday tomorrow, but he has announced that it should NOT be celebrated. So, being devious, I “treated” at lunch, and later told Ben that this had been his birthday lunch!

Ben is joining me at All Angels-by-the-Sea tomorrow. There I am to preside at the Eucharist and preach. Kay Dohoney and Barbara Dunne will also be there. Afterwards we’ll all retire to my home for lunch. Kay’s birthday was earlier this month, so this will mark her anniversary, and Ben’s.

Kay and Barbara were members of St. Stephen’s in Pittsfield, and I retired to this neck of the woods in part because they live nearby. They have been partners for 42 years!

( I have other wonderful “Barbaras” in my life)

At the Eucharist tomorrow I will bless the recent civil marriage of Gail Yanov and John Root.

Gail’s first husband was an Officer in the U.S. Navy, and John was an Officer in the U.S. Air Force. Gail with her late husband, and John with his late wife, met when the two men were military attaches at the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia.

So this marriage is one of old friends. I’ve met Gail a number of times, but today was my first meeting with John.

John is a Londoner. He parents left London in 1952, and he grew up in Bristol, New Hampshire.

I grew up in Bristol, U.K. so we talked about the “Bristols” in the United States. There are at least eight of them.

Bristol, R.I. is the loveliest of them. It is the ancestral home of my late mentor DeWolf Perry, and his remains are buried there, together with those of his wife Kitty. I was honoured to lead the graveside prayers in Bristol for DeWolf.

(I own a cannon ball with which the British Navy bombarded Bristol R.I. in 1775.)

And there is the odd Bristol which is in two States, Virginia and Tennessee. The State line runs down the middle of the main street. So there are two City Councils, two Mayors etc.

I visited there in 1991, and it’s not much of a place - (it claims to be the home of Country Music).

My Pittsfield parishioner Don Phipps hails from Bristol, Virginia!

You can read about these and other Bristols on Wikipedia.

And there is also a Bristol FL. It has a populations of about 850, and I drove through it in 2006. I blinked, and already I had left the town!

Friday, 20 June 2008

When the "economy" is in the tank.

So “the economy” (whatever that is) is in the tank.

Property values are down, down, down.

Feckless bankers, having ignored the elementary rules of lending, are foreclosing on mortgages hand over fist.

“Energy” costs more and more, gas/petrol prices having doubled within a year. The wealthy are selling their SUV’s and purchasing “Smart Cars” - yes even in these United States. The poor and the middle classes cannot afford this option.

And the costs of food have sky-rocketed. Bananas, for instance, have doubled in price within less than a year. (You can bet your bottom pound or dollar that banana growers have not reaped this increase).

Pseudo-President Shrub (George Walker Bush) is oblivious to the crisis. That surprises no-one. He is oblivious to just about everything.

The economy is in the tank. But there are a few bright linings to this dark cloud.

1. There is the beginning of a return to City rather than Suburban life. Our wonderful Cities might well be revitalised. (But where will the poor live when “undesirable” City neighbourhoods are gentrified?

2. Public transportation is on the cusp of a boom. Even car-dependent Florida is thinking about/planning some inter-City rail links. Sarasota ‘buses now run in the evenings and on Sundays.

3. Legislators (at least in Florida) are considering a move from a penal system based on retribution, to one based on rehabilitation. No, they have not all become sentimental liberals - but they have come to understand that rehabilitation programs save tax-payers money.

O Poor benighted Shrub. Events supercede your ideology! How sweet that is!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Fulfilling my destiny!

I planned many years ago to be an Old Fart, or maybe an Old Coot. My whole life has prepared me for this.

My old Fart/Coot-dom comes into full swing when I encounter Muzak a.k.a. Music.

It blared out at the Renaissance Hotel in Elizabeth, New Jersey where I recently stayed. I wrote a complaint about this.

In our local plaza there is a branch of an Aarons “Rent to Own” (a.k.a. “Rip-off artists“) furniture, electronics and home appliance store. From there ghastly music utters forth outside as well as in. It can be heard some 50 feet away from the store’s front door.

And so it goes at most of the local drug stores and supermarkets.

It’s designed to encourage me to buy yet more. But I resist the music, and refuse to be seduced. I take a list of items when I shop. I purchase only from the list.

And I complain to the store owners or managers about their cacophonies; their screaming sound systems.

Old farts hate noise pollution. And maybe young farts too!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Lost in SRQ, and "We are all bozos on the 'bus"

We are all bozos on the ‘bus. See below.

But before that, here is something else.

Last week I wondered “Does the Universe grieve when a sock goes missing?” Yes indeed, I lost a sock in the laundry.

But just as there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, so I grinned when I found that sock, caught up in some other laundry.

Socks return. But what about plates?

I have two plastic plates, one yellow, the other green. I use them to serve my cats Ada and Adelaide their daily, and limited supply of canned food. I put them out on the kitchen floor at about 1:00 p.m. today, and the cats enjoyed their late lunch.

But do you think that I can find the yellow plate? It has disappeared without trace. It’s not in the trash, nor did I place it in the dishwasher. I checked the fridge where I have been known to “absent mindedly” place articles. It is nowhere to be seen.

Do cats hide plates? Is there a “plate kidnapper”? Can plates dematerialise? Was it a flying saucer in disguise? Has it been transformed into a yellow submarine?

Do you have any suggestions re “the riddle of the missing plate”?

There will be joy in SRQ if the plate is found!

My buddy Tracy Wells does not worry about plates. Instead she preaches, and preaches well.

The following is an extract from her sermon, June 15th at Holy Trinity, Decatur, GA.

Shirley Grace Madajewski, our Monday morning front desk volunteer, often brings in interesting quotes and articles to share with our office staff. A few weeks ago she brought in an article called “Bozos on the Bus,” from a book called Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser, founder of the Omega Institute, a non-profit organization for personal and spiritual growth in California.

Lesser writes about the clown-activist Wavy Gravy, most famous for his role as the master of ceremonies at Woodstock, and his use of humour in the service of social activism and motivational change. She says her favourite “Wavyism” is the following quote: “We’re all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.” She says she loves this phrase because

“I believe that we are all bozos on the bus, contrary to the self-assured image we work so hard to present to each other on a daily basis. We are all half-baked experiments – mistake-prone beings, born without an instruction book into a complex world. None of us are models of perfect behaviour: We have all betrayed and been betrayed; we’ve been known to be egotistical, unreliable, lethargic, and stingy; and each one of us has, at times, awakened in the middle of the night worrying about everything from money, kids, or terrorism to wrinkled skin and receding hairlines. In other words, we’re all bozos on the bus.”

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

My weekend away, Part Two

My weekend away, part two.

My mother had six brothers and one sister. Her younger sister, Kate died as a young woman from tetanus poisoning, known then as “lock-jaw”.

Her brothers were John, Fred, Harold, Reg, Wally and Albert.

Albert was killed in Normandy, August 1944, in World War II.

Wally also served in thy Army, and after de-mobilisation, married Irene Parsons - my Aunt Irene. They divorced 20 years ago, and Wally has since passed from this life.

Irene had but one brother. His name was Clifford, and he served in the Merchant Navy during World War II.

He sailed out of Newfoundland, where he married “Bridie” a Newfoundland Irishwoman.

They had one child, Catherine (Kippy), but soon after her birth, Clifford was lost at sea when his boat was torpedoed

Irene was 16 years old at that time, but she never forgot that she had a “Newfie” niece, “Kippy”.

As Kippy grew up, she was able to develop a loving relationship with her Aunt by birth, Irene.

And that same Aunt, Irene is my Aunt by marriage. For as long as I can remember she has been my favourite Aunt. She has been the only Aunt who has consistently cared for me. I am the (very poor) godfather for her younger \son Christopher. Irene has visited me four times in these United States.

(Her older daughter, Janet, has a time share in Sarasota, so I have been able to connect with her these past two years.)

Through Irene I have gotten to know my cousin by marriage, Kippy, and her husband Marty. We have connected for more than 30 years.

And I was in New Jersey/New York for the 50th wedding anniversary of Kippy and Marty. I just “had” to be there for Marty and Kippy, but also because my Aunt Irene and her daughter, my favourite cousin Janet, would also be there.

It was a wonderful visit.

On Friday night, Marty and Kippy’s son Stephen hosted a party for the out of town guests. (He is a New York Fire fighter in Manhattan - one of the genuine heroes
of “9/11”). [ Mary and Kippy had no idea that we were all in Town]

On Saturday we were at the surprise party for Marty and Kippy. And it was a surprise. They were as they say in England - “gob smacked”.

Kippy was shocked (to say the least) that her four half brothers were there from Newfoundland, as well as her Aunt Irene from England, together with Janet and me.

Their four children, Michael, Stephen, Barbara and Brian gave beautiful and touching speeches. I was privileged to bless Marty and Kippy, and to offer grace before dinner.

It was a wonderful party. Good food, lovely renewal of friendships, and so much deep love for Marty and Kippy.

On Sunday we all returned to Barbara’s home for a very relaxed barbecue.

What a simply fabulous weekend!

My weekend away, Part One

My weekend away, part one.

I spent the weekend of June 13th - 16th in New Jersey and New York. I was there for the Golden Wedding anniversary of my cousin by marriage, Kippy (Catherine) Altini and her husband Marty. They live on Staten Island. More about that in part two.

In my travels I was served very well by what we call “technology”. I made my plane, hotel and car reservations through the internet.

I was able to print a boarding pass before I left home, and thanks to the good facilities at a Renaissance Hotel in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in that hotel before I returned.

All the internet-made reservations worked perfectly, and Continental Airlines surpassed themselves in that my two flights left on time, and both arrived early.

I flew into Newark Airport, which has a nifty automated monorail which links the terminals and the on campus car rental offices. I was using “Budget” car rentals, and picking up the car was a “piece of cake”. (Car rental firms have surely streamlined their procedures!).

The Hotel was well equipped, with a free computer centre, a good sized pool, and fitness room (where I was able to walk a couple of miles each morning on a treadmill). The Hotel also had a dedicated computer from which guests could print boarding passes.

Ah “technology”!

How did we live without mobile ‘phones? (We actually did very well).

The car was equipped with an “Easy Pass” transponder, so very useful on the toll roads, and on the toll bridge between New Jersey and New York ($8 per pop).

And my portable Garmin “Street Pilot” directed me to five different addresses without a missed turn.

Only once did technology fail. The Continental self check in computer system was down, so the lines for check-ins were long, very long.

So I decided to carry on my bag. All very well, ‘cept I forgot that it contained a knife which I’d bought to cut up some fruit for breakfast. My face was a bit red when the TSA screeners saw it on the scanner.