Saturday, 21 November 2015

Book recommendation . "The Theft of Memory"

The Theft
of Memory

Losing My Father,
One Day at a Time

This is a lovely memoir by Jonathan Kozol (author of "Amazing Grace", "Death at an Early Age" and others).  The book is published by Crown Publishers, New York, 2015. $26

Mr. Kozol writes with tender affection, deep insight, and loving honesty about his father Dr. Harry Kozol.

Dr.  Kozol was a nationally noted specialist in disorders of the brain.  He was, the book jacket says, "an unusually intuitive clinician with a special gift for diagnosing interwoven elements of neurological and psychiatric illnesses in highly complicated and created people".

But, (to quote from the book jacket again) "... The Theft of Memory in not primarily about a doctor's public life. The heat of the book lies in the bond between a father and his son and the ways in which that bond intensified even as Harry's verbal skills and cogency progressively abandoned him".


I was intrigued by Jonathan Kozol's discussion of  memory, not as "a bank account, or storage box, in which our memories are waiting for us to retrieve them - to reach in and pull them out - but that there is, instead, only the act of remembering itself, in which electrochemical activities of the brain re-create portions of a memory that may be accurate reflections of or previous experiences, but frequently are not."  

"Memory is not a literal reproduction of the past:, writes Daniel Schacter, the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Harvard University........... It is, instead, a "constructive process"  by means of which "bits and ices of information" that may come from a variety of sources are reassembled, as it were, into a new reality".

Previous two paragraphs heavily dependent on the book pp 234/235.


We re-create and reinvent some portions of our memories! (p  235)

Jonathan Kozol was fortunate enough to have a vast store of his father's documents and letters (i.e written sources, contemporary to events in his father's life)  through which he was able to corroborate many of his memories


One again:  Mr. Kozol writes with tender affection, deep insight, and loving honesty about his father Dr. Harry Kozol.

My went back to Sarasota's Fruitville Library on Saturday 22nd November 2015

Thursday, 19 November 2015

More or less back to normal - whatever "normal is".

My niece Beth and her b/f Jordan were here in October, visiting from Bristol, U.K.

My two older sisters and their husbands were here in November, also visiting from Bristol.

I flew to Atlanta on Saturday and returned on Sunday.

On Wednesday morning I had my annual physical with the wonderful Dr. Kristen Paulus.  She confirmed that I am still alive  (and in excellent health).

On Wednesday evening my first cousin Janet and her partner Steve stopped by. They (also from Bristol) visit their timeshare on Longboat Key every November.  I've seen them in SRQ every year since 2006. Our visits are always a pleasure.

This morning I had MOHS surgery for a squamous cell carcinoma on my left ear.  Once slice sufficed (thank goodness), and I am now sporting my semi- Van Gogh look.

Yep -  back to normal.


Last Friday  (13th) my sisters, their husbands and I had a valedictory dinner at Turtles on the Bay  (Siesta Key).  We sat outside (facing the intra-coastal).  We each enjoyed good food, and superb table fellowship.

After dinner I prevailed upon another restaurant guest to take a photo' of our family group.  I like the pic so much.  I am 'specially moved because (all unrehearsed) both my sisters placed a hand on my shoulders.

Oldest sister Maureen, her husband Bernard, jmp, second oldest sister Jean, her husband John.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

1995 Thousands of Muslims massacred by Christians How soon we forget

By the summer of 1995, three towns in eastern Bosnia–Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde–remained under control of the Bosnian government. The U.N. had declared these enclaves “safe havens” in 1993, to be disarmed and protected by international peacekeeping forces. On July 11, however, Bosnian Serb forces advanced on Srebrenica, overwhelming a battalion of Dutch peacekeeping forces stationed there. Serbian forces subsequently separated the Bosniak civilians at Srebrenica, putting the women and girls on buses and sending them to Bosnian-held territory. Some of the women were raped or sexually assaulted, while the men and boys who remained behind were killed immediately or bussed to mass killing sites. Estimates of Bosniaks killed by Serb forces at Srebrenica range from around 7,000 to more than 8,000.
(Source  History.Com )

Monday, 16 November 2015

Visiting Atlanta again

In 1991 I spent three months of sabbatical leave in Atlanta.   I hung my hat and shared in ministry at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Peachtree Street, and I took three one semester courses at the Interdenominational Theological Center at Atlanta University.

I've made a fair number of visits to Atlanta since I moved to Sarasota.

It all began when I stayed with friends in Atlanta on my way down from Cambridge, MA to Sarasota FL.

Later I was there on two different occasions with two different Brazilian friends, both of whom were determined to visit the CNN Centre and the "World of Coke" before they returned to their homeland.

(Atlanta is famous in many other countries simply because of CNN and Coke!)

I was in ATL again for the ordination to the priesthood of my friend Tracy Wells Miller (to Atlanta on a morning flight, back home on an evening flight._

On three of these visits I was able to see my Atlanta area based pals Susan Hughes and Lisa Coston. Woot woot!

I was there again Nov 14/15 2015 for a party.  More about this in a minute.

My hotel was in Alpharetta.  I took advantage of an early arrival to visit and have tea with a woman with whom I had attended the same school on Bristol, UK (and her husband).

We were at school together from 1955-1960.  We scarcely knew each other in those school days, and we've never been together in the intervening 55 years.

Nonetheless we had a lovely time together with our sour and sweet memories of a school in which we had been imprisoned for five year.

She was Christine Stoate then, from a suburb of Bristol named Whitchurch.  Now she is Christine Haslam, and her husband is Tom.

\Tom and Christine Haslam.


Then came the party!  Oh what a great party!

It was a gathering of family and friends of Rick Freeman and Steve Card.

I met Rick for the first time in 2006 on my ride down from MA to FL.

I've known Steve since 1976.  His mother (Ruth Card) and his Grandmother (Annie Speed) were faithful worshipers at the the Church of the Good Shepherd in Fitchburg, MA, where I was the Minister from 1976 - 1980.

Steve  and his (former) wife Sue would come up to Fitchburg to visit his Mum and Grandma.

I hooked up with them again in 1991 in their Roswell GA home  during my Atlanta based sabbatical.  By then they had two children, Amanda and Matthew.

Of course my "gaydar" had been utterly accurate when, on my first encounter with Steve  and Sue,  I sussed that he was gay.

In due course Steve and Sue had the most amicable divorce you could ever imagine.


Nineteen years ago Steve met Rick, since when they have been faithful partners. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court they were able to get married this year..

The party was not a wedding reception, rather it was a celebration with friends and family.

And, oh what a celebration it was!

Steve's daughter and his  son were there with their spouses.

Rick's sister and her husband were there.  His brother and his wife were there,   Rick's 82 years old father was there, and when he was introduced he raced forward to hug first Steve, and then Rick.

The guests were young and old. Some were Christians, some were "nones", some were Muslims.  Let me repeat that again, SOME WERE MUSLIMS: (put that in your pipes and smoke it you Islamaphobes!).

I got to be very teary eyed  because I knew that I was participating in a celebration of a profound (and good) cultural change. Whoever could have anticipated that there would be a joyful celebration of a same sex marriage in an "Old South" State such as Georgia.

A cousin of Steve, one Ward Symonds was there with his spouse, having flown in from San Antonia, Texas.     Ward is the son of the late Les and Jessie Symonds who were also dear friends and parishioners at CGS in Fitchburg.

I had not seen Ward in oh so many years, so it was a joy and pleasure to sit at dinner with them, and to share some many precious memories.

* ( I am having a brain fart, so for the life of me I cannot recall the name of Ward's (second) wife.  Forgive me  please  -  I plead  the fifth since I met her for the very first time last Saturday).


Rick (l), Steve (r)  Please excuse the poor quality of this photo'.  We were in a Tent after the Sun had gone down

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Tampa. Newark. Atlanta.

My family members left SRQ yesterday morning after our two wondrous weeks together.

They were scheduled to fly Delta from Tampa to Amsterdam, from where they would take a "puddle jumper" to our home city of Bristol.

Early in the morning I received a text message from Delta, announcing that their flight had been canceled, and  that my family had been transfered to a United Airlines flight.

All well and good,  Even better, when I called Delta I got to speak with an agent within minutes (miracle of miracles), and she confirmed the transfer.

This was very nice, but when my folks presented themselves to the U.A. desk at TPA there was no record of this transfered flight.

They wandered over to the Delta desk, where the staff professed ignorance of the changes.

Back to the U.A. desk they went.  They were told again that U.A. knew nothing about this.

But a stellar U.A. staff member said  "wait by the Delta desk, I will do the research, and then I'll find you at the Delta desk and let you know what I have discovered".

She was true to her word.  She discovered that my folks' flight  had indeed been  transfered to U.A., but that it was in two legs - first TPA to EWR (Newark), and then from EWR to Amsterdam.

All praise and gratitude to this diligent  United Airlines staff member.

And there was a bonus.   The approach to EWR took them over Manhattan, so they were able to enjoy wonderful views of the Big Apple (including the Statute of Liberty).

The U.A. trans-Atlantic flight went well, and they arrived in Amsterdam in good time to catch their flight to Bristol.

In the meantime I, and other family members had had a bit of anxiety because we could not track what we thought would be a direct U.A. flight from Tampa to Amsterdam.  There was no such flight!  But we had no way of knowing about the TPA - EWR part of the flight.

Now my folks are safe and sound in their homes.  They are tired.  But it is a good weariness as they rejoice in the wondrous time we all enjoyed in  Sarasota.


Soon after my family members left my home for their journey to TPA  (using a mini-van taxi @ $112 for four people - a very decent price), I drove to the Sarasota Airport for a flying (24 hour) visit to Atlanta  (more about "why?"  tomorrow).

At one level I thought that I must have had a hole in my head to plan such a trip right on the tail of the visit of my family members.

At another level I knew that it would be better for me to get out of town, than to mope around with sadness in my heart following the departure of my folks.

Early on this (Sunday) morning I emerged from my hotel in Alpharetta GA only to discover that the tyre/tire on the front driver's side wheel was flatter than Florida. I also discovered that the car did not carry a spare wheel.

I called the rental car company for assistance.  The good woman with whom I spoke could not give me an estimate as to when someone or other might be dispatched to take care of this.

I was nervous lest I should miss my flight home from ATL - SRQ, so we agreed that I would leave my rental car in the Hotel's parking lot, there to be "recovered" by "Dollar" Rent a Car, and I would take a taxi to the Airport.

The hotel's front desk clerk was charmingly helpful but the cab he ordered was sans a meter, and the fare was (shall we say) astonishingly high.

Nevertheless, like my family members I am at home, I am safe and well, and I am reunited with my beloved dog who had been with her "uncle and aunt":- my dear friends R and C who live down in Gulf Gate, Sarasota.

Alongside my folks I am very, very tired,  so after a glass of wine and a grilled cheese sandwich I am headed for Sleep Street at 7:00 p.m.

My weariness is mitigated by a huge infusion of gratitude.