Saturday, June 30, 2012

444 - Ghost Tour

Our house on Andrews Avenue is neat and orderly.  Nothing is ever out of place, or if it is, it will not be for long.  Even though the house is small, four rooms, one bath and a pantry, there are ample cupboards, closets, shelves and drawers to hold all of our possessions, which are sufficient and minimal.  There is no hoarding of any type; no collections, no stock piling, no storing of items away in reserve for a future date.  We don’t burden our house beyond its capacity to hold what can be used in the space of a week or two, beyond what the house can easily contain for a family of four to live comfortably day by day.  Everything that we own is needed; no excess to cram into this or that corner, no clutter, no debris, no disarray.  Ours is a utilitarian household, fit for the practical purpose of living. For that reason, some sixty years later, my memory of it will be intact; vivid, non-superfluous, unobstructed.

If I were to give you a tour of our little house on Andrews Avenue, we would begin by taking one step up onto the front porch.  Notice how nicely the porch is enclosed by dark green lattice work, and how the ivy and the pale blue-violet morning glories climb and twine up and in between the trellises.   Before we go inside, take a moment to look around, beyond our house, at all of the other houses in this project.  Like our house, all are made of cinder blocks covered by white-washed stucco.   Most are attached to other identical houses in rows of six.  Some of the rows have red roofs and some of the rows have green.  Red-roofed houses have red doors and red porches; green-roofed houses have green doors and green porches.  Occasionally, but not randomly, (because this project has a pattern that cannot be denied), you will see two houses back to back, attached to each other, but set apart from the six row standard.  This occurs because the builders of the project wanted to be efficient and make the best use of the limited space the government gave them.  But I like to think of these two-house anomalies as grace notes, linking the entire composition of Glendale Heights together in a bitter-sweet and soulful sonata.

We enter by the front door – the only door – which separates the outside from the inside.  This is the entrance and the exit, the way in and the way out.  Nothing so unusual about that, you might say, but to me, or to the child in me, it has always seemed and continues to seem amazing.  The door itself is made of thick, solid hardwood and painted the same dark shade of green as the trellises and the porch floor.  There is a large, square pane of glass, beveled around the edges and centered in the top half of the door.   Can you see how the beveled glass works as a prism and how a child might spend a good amount of time marveling at the rainbow of colored light emitted when the sun passes through it at just the right angle or just the right time?  On the inside, affixed above this wondrous window, is an ivory colored window shade, scalloped and fringed along the bottom.  Hanging from the shade, a braided silk cord with a circular looped pull, dangles and dances when the door opens or closes.  There are times when this cord swings and sways for no obvious reason.  
We are in the living room now.  Some people call it a parlor.  We never do.  Mario Lanza is singing.  Or is it Enrico Caruso?  Who is singing, Father?  He turns from his work at the desk; his brown eyes quick and alive beneath the horn-rimmed glasses that bridge his noble Roman nose, and says, “Caruso.”  He and his mahogany desk face the far wall, and above the desk hang photographs of the people he loves; his wife, his two children, his mother and father, his five brothers, his three sisters.  The walls in this room are blue, pale blue.  On the left wall are two windows, side by side, that look out to a green hill rolling gently down to a shallow, narrow creek called Muckinapatus. The hill is profusely dotted with dandelions.  Both sides of the creek are lined with willows, shaggy barked maples, and here and there a mulberry.   In the winter time, when you lie on your belly and sled down the hill on your Flexible Flyer, you better make sure you know how to steer or you’ll be making a trip to the hospital for stitches.

  Beneath the double windows is the black tapestry sofa with the red and pink roses woven in all stages of that flower’s form, from bud to full bloom and including the stems, foliage and thorns.  It is my mother’s pride and joy and no nonsense whatsoever may be performed on it.  However, when she is not in sight, both Petey and I ride its arms, kick its sides, and shout “High, ho, Silver.”  When Petey gets on my nerves I threaten to tell Mother that he at times wipes a boogie on it, though I really only saw him do it once.  In front of the sofa is a cherry wood coffee table, upon which no coffee has ever been served.  It holds a crystal candy dish filled with cellophane wrapped hard candy in many shapes, colors, and sizes and of which I never partake without first asking permission.  Mother, when we have company, often comments on my remarkable restraint.  When my cousin, Marybeth, visits, she sneaks one piece after another when the grown-ups aren’t looking.  She also likes to lick her index finger, stick it in the sugar bowl and then lick the sugar off and do the same thing again and again and again until the sugar bowl is taken away. I don’t think I am better than Marybeth; I’m just not crazy over sugar.

Against the wall opposite the windows and the sofa is my father’s leather arm chair in a color that my mother calls cordovan, and next to his chair,  a mahogany table with a brass lamp, an amber ashtray,  his pack of Camel cigarettes and a silver lighter on which is engraved his three initials, PJT, in a very flamboyant cursive.  Above the chair and table hangs a large painting of a woodland scene that has the ability to mesmerize me and in which scene I have spent many wondering and wandering hours.  Women in gowns of pink and green and red and blue and violet, leisurely strolling through and between, or sitting beneath tall, splendid trees that border each side of a winding stream and grow dense and then denser as they spread out into obscurity as they approach the edges of the picture.  There are no men or children in the painting, and the women seem to be alienated from each other and from their own selves; they all wear the same benign expression which is no expression at all.  It’s as if they have been placed arbitrarily into the scene for the single purpose of giving it color and nothing more.

There is another chair, to the right of the door through which we first entered.  It is my mother’s chair, feminine and yet stately; a camel colored Queen Anne with magnificently sculptured legs.  A small petit point footstool sits to one side of it, out of the way but still visible in it’s designated place, ready to be drawn into service if needed.  Do you see those two exquisite pairs of shoes lying on the floor next to the foot stool?; Italian leather high heeled sandals, one pair red, one pair navy blue.  Mother came home with them just this afternoon.  She was ecstatic.  Her feet are so narrow, you know; she never went barefoot because going barefoot widens the feet, and narrow feet are a sign of good breeding and aristocracy.  She so wanted to be an aristocrat.  She so wanted to leave the poverty of Sugar Hollow behind her.  When she found those wonderful shoes in size seven Quad A she nearly went delirious. She had to buy both pairs because who knows when she would ever come across such a marvelous treasure again.  Quad A’s are almost impossible to find anywhere.

As long as I live I will never forget the tears my mother will cry tomorrow when she wakes up to discover that our Collie dog Laddie has chewed her treasure to shreds.  Laddie won’t be waiting for us at the school bus stop anymore.  He will be sent to live on a farm in Sugar Hollow where he can run and play with barefooted children.   He will be loved and fed by a short stout woman and will lie at her feet as she shucks peas on the front porch in a rocking chair.  He will think of us once in a while, and look up at the woman with questioning eyes. He will sniff her apron and lick the fat toes of her wide bare feet before he drifts off to sleep.

We are now in the pink walled center hallway with its two closets, side by side. One is for linens and the other is for coats, hats, and the vacuum cleaner.  To the right of this hallway is the green walled bathroom with a black fleur di lise pattern on a white background.  It’s just an ordinary bathroom; toilet, sink and tub, all of which are white porcelain and sparkling clean as you can see.  There is a window on the wall over the tub that offers yet another view of Andrews Avenue partially blocked by the branches of our Elm tree. There is a pink wicker hamper against the wall opposite the sink. A medicine cabinet with a mirrored door hangs on the wall above the sink.  Go ahead, open it up and take a look.  You will find: Pepto Bismal; Phillips milk of magnesia; witch hazel; Bayer aspirin; rubbing alcohol; hydrogen peroxide; oil of wintergreen; Vaseline petroleum jelly; Vicks Vapor Rub; Father John’s Cough Syrup; Ipana toothpaste; Noxzema cold cream; syrup of ipecac; tincture of iodine; tincture of violet; mercurochrome; band aids; my father’s Old Spice shaving mug, red handled shaving brush and Gillette razor.  On the left side of the sink, next to the faucet are four tooth brushes in a porcelain holder shaped like a woman’s hand; on the other side of the faucet is a pink bar of Camay soap in a green dish shaped like a fish.

  This is the bedroom of my mother and father.  The walls are lavender and there is a four inch wall paper border of violet bouquets on a pale yellow background at the top where the walls meet the white ceiling.  The linoleum covered floor has a light wood parquet design.  A mahogany four poster bed is positioned in the center of the room with the headboard against the far wall.  It is covered with a bright yellow chenille bedspread with a fringed border.  Above the bed are two pictures; Jesus Christ and his mother, Mary.  Their heads are slightly turned and tilted so that they appear to be facing each other, but at the same time, they each have eyes that follow you no matter where you are in the room.  There are two small night tables on each side of the bed with matching milk glass hurricane lamps set on doilies tatted by my grandmother.  Double windows covered by sheer, white, dotted Swiss curtains that fall to the floor are centered on the right wall.  The view from these windows is much like the view from the kitchen windows, but from here you can see the fat trunk and the lower branches of the Elm tree.  The tree is so close to the house that you could reach out and touch it if the window was open and you wanted to do such a thing.  Against the left wall is a double dresser which matches the mahogany bed and is shared by my mother and father.  Her clothes are in the right-hand drawers and his in the left. The dresser has a black marble top and above it hangs an oval mirror in an ornate gold-leafed frame.  A white and red oriental vase, depicting geishas, nightingales and lotus trees is the only item on the dresser.  The vase is empty. 

Next on our tour is the room I share with my brother, Peter.  We sleep in twin beds that face the back wall of the house on which yet another set of double windows look out upon the Muckinapatas.   The curtains on are cotton twill and vertically striped in colors of red, green, yellow, orange and purple. The walls are a light shade of turquoise.  Our bedspreads are made of corduroy in a much darker shade of turquoise than the walls, almost teal.  There is a table between our beds and on it a unique lamp; a silver horse about eight inches high with a small round clock imbedded in its belly.  The horse is mounted on a wooden base and tethered to a brass post by a braided leather strap. The clock has Roman numerals and behind a glass door which opens so the clock can be wound with a key that slips into a saddle bag. Enclosed within the post is the lamp’s wiring. The shade of this lamp is made of stiff translucent paper and saddle-stitched with leather around its top and bottom circumferences.  I have never seen another lamp such as this. Hanging on the wall above the table is a wooden crucifix that opens and contains the items necessary to perform the ceremony of last-rites called Extreme Unction. Sometimes I take the crucifix down off the wall and remove the little bottles of holy water and sanctified oil and the two small white candles. Peter and I pretend we are dying and give each other the last rites.  The body of Jesus is ivory colored and his head is bent in sorrow.   Peter has a chest of drawers on his side of the room, and I have an identical chest of drawers on my side.

  There is only one room that remains to be seen.  Of the four main rooms of our house, the kitchen is my favorite.  It has been said that “the kitchen is the cultural womb of our existence within the place that we dwell.”  I don’t know who it was that said this, some famous anthropologist I suppose. But you don’t have to be an anthropologist or a sociologist or any other kind of “ologist” to understand the truth of those words.  Jim Morrison of the Doors, in a song called “Soul Kitchen,” stated the concept of kitchen as womb quite erotically, symbolically and melodically: “I want to sleep all night in your soul kitchen” You don’t have to be a Sigmund Freud or a Carl Jung to catch the drift of his words and their rhythm.

Well, the clock says it's time to close now
I guess I'd better go now
I'd really like to stay here all night
The cars crawl past all stuffed with eyes
Street lights shed their hollow glow
Your brain seems bruised with numb surprise
Still one place to go
Still one place to go

Let me sleep all night in your soul kitchen
Warm my mind near your gentle stove
Turn me out and I'll wander baby
Stumblin' in the neon groves

Well, your fingers weave quick minarets
Speak in secret alphabets
I light another cigarette
Learn to forget, learn to forget
Learn to forget, learn to forget

Let me sleep all night in your soul kitchen
Warm my mind near your gentle stove
Turn me out and I'll wander baby
Stumblin' in the neon groves

Follow me then, into the kitchen, through this doorway which, unlike all the other rooms of our house, has no door to shut you out or keep you in.  The atmosphere is easy come, easy go.  There is nothing to hide in this room, nothing to lock up.  Its contents belong to one and all.  I am especially fond of the linoleum floor and its intriguing pattern of green and red concentric squares.  It would appear to be a simple checkerboard to most people, but to me it is so much more.  In the center of each six inch square is a black half inch square centered in either a green or red one inch square.  The squares then increase by half inch increments of alternating green or red color until the final six inch square is reached.  This arrangement of shape within shape and color within color provide an endless possibility of pattern and form and an endless opportunity to imagine and explore.  I am eight years old.  I scrub this floor every Saturday morning.  I get down on my hands and knees with a bucket of warm soapy water and a soft, clean rag.  I scrub every square inch of the floor with the ardor of a mystic finding herself in the midst of an infinite and unintended journey.  The voice you hear belongs to my mother, “What’s going on?  It’s taking you forever to scrub that floor.”  

The kitchen table is under another set of double windows which look out onto our front yard. The yard is enclosed by a white picket fence, on the other side of the fence is Andrews Avenue, and beyond Andrews, row upon row of vertical and horizontal white stucco houses with red and green roofs.   My friends are out there; Margaret, Joanne, and Linda Belle, playing jump rope in the street.   I will join them when I’m finished scrubbing the floor, or maybe I will sit on the sofa and read my new comic books.  My mother’s friend, Helen, is sitting in a wicker chair on her front porch embroidering the edges of a pillow case.  Her son in law, John, is mowing the lawn in a dingy white undershirt. The radio on the kitchen table is playing songs from the Hit Parade.  It’s a Saturday morning in the summer of nineteen fifty.  I am sitting at the table in my chair next to the window eating my peanut butter toast on my favorite yellow plate with small blue flowers around the edges as my mother rolls out the washing machine and hooks it up to the kitchen sink.  The washing machine is noisy, and the fumes from the chlorine bleach that she uses to kill germs and whiten linens, nauseate me.  I get nervous and irritable when the washing machine is chugging and churning, and I get very disappointed when the smell of the chlorine makes my peanut butter toast taste like poison.  I have peanut butter toast every morning, with cold milk in a glass that used to hold strawberry jelly.  I hate it when the washing machine intrudes upon my privacy; it interrupts my thoughts and ruins my breakfast.

The pantry is to the right of the kitchen and runs all the way through to the living room. The furnace and the hot water heater are in the pantry, and shelves that run up to the ceiling.  The shelves hold canned goods, cleaning supplies, tools and Christmas ornaments. There’s a small window high up on the wall that I can’t see through unless I climb up on the step stool.  From that window you can see all the way down Andrews Avenue until it curves left and meets up with Hibbs Avenue.  We have many relatives who live on Hibbs, but I don’t go down that way because around that bend is a place called “Hell’s Corner.”  There are two doors to get into or out of the pantry; one in the kitchen with two long narrow horizontal slits, about one inch by ten inches, in the bottom half, and another regular door in the living room which forms a right angle with our front door. Petey and I play a game call “Going in one door and out the other.”   Mother says this game drives her crazy so we only play it when she’s not around.  We also play a game called “Spy” where we spy on each other by peeking through the slits in the door. I don’t understand why there has to be two doors to the panty.  In my opinion, one would be more than enough.  I don’t care much for that room.  The furnace and the hot water heater scare me.

Sometimes, on weekday afternoons when my father is at work, Helen comes over to our house with two ugly men and a bottle of whiskey.  One of the men is named Sid and he used to be Helen’s husband, the other is called Blaine, and he is her boy friend.  They are both old like Helen and have white hair and red faces. Sid smokes cigars and Blaine smokes Lucky Strikes.  Helen doesn’t smoke anything and neither does my mother.  They all sit around the kitchen table and drink whiskey out of little glasses which they call shots and then they wash it down with something from a bigger glass called a chaser.  When my mother asks Sid what he wants for a chaser, he always says “crick water” and everybody laughs like it’s hilarious.  Blaine uses beer for a chaser, and my mother and Helen use ginger ale.

When I was younger, about four years old, I used to climb up on Helen’s lap and sit out there in the kitchen with them.  Helen would let me look through her pocket book for candy and chewing gum, and she would let me take sips of her ginger ale.  But then one day something happened to change me forever.  It was something my mother said: “Go in the other room like a good little girl.”  Her words came as a shock to me.  How could I ever be anything but a good little girl?  I looked at my mother and in a state of utter confusion stated, “But I already am a good little girl.”  Everyone was impressed by my wit and my logic, I could tell by the expression on their faces and the way that looked at each other and smiled.  My mother did not smile.  She stared at me with a stern face and with an air of one-up-manship said “Then go in the other room like the good little girl that you are.”  I realized at that moment that my being good was not a permanent condition, that it was instead a never ending process that carried with it the ever present possibility of not being good.  And what’s more, that that possibility could be determined and therefore arbitrarily controlled by someone other than myself.  I was sickened by the horror of this revelation, and by the arduous path that now lay ahead of me, the endless proof I would have to provide to the judges of goodness whoever they might be.  I felt broken and shamed. With my eyes downcast and my head hung low I dutifully left the kitchen.  I threw myself on the sofa, buried my head under a pillow and cried for a long while over my great loss and the ponderous  knowledge that replaced it.  


Day was departing, and the darkening air
Called all earth's creatures to their evening quiet
While I alone was preparing as though for war...
-- the Inferno of Dante, Canto II --

I hesitate to talk about time. There are days when it’s a friend of mine, and days when it is not. I am always acutely aware of it. It comes and goes, follows me around, sometimes kissing my fingers and toes, sometimes pulling me down to the ground. I can live without a clock. I much prefer light and shadow. Sun and moon and stars. Morning Glories, Four O’Clocks. Daybreak and Nightfall; the holy hours. But I don’t live alone and must comply to keep the peace. “Do not disturb” is a sign I can not hang on my door. The world wants more of me, to be sure of me. And when some heathen asks me for the time, I must produce the truth in their way and not mine. Five thirty five and all is well. Proof. I am a member of the human race and running on time. The bluefish aren’t biting and that’s swell, because I don’t like blue fish anyway. I’d much rather have chicken salad on rye toast at six forty six. With potato chips and a jewfish pickle on the side. I’m allowed to make jokes. It’s called a perk. Life gives us a few. I’m allowed to rhyme. I am me. I am not you. Your time is not my time. Your restrictions are not my restrictions. I have things to do that can’t be done inside a shoe. There is an endless starry sky to consider and investigate. I cannot wait for something as trifling as tomorrow. I cannot wait for vapid time to spring me. I will pierce and I will perforate and I will plow. I know how to manipulate my universe; I know how to maneuver my row boat. And when my arms get tired, I’ll take a little rest on the outskirts of eternity.

Isn’t it strange how something as simple as a child’s nursery rhyme can influence an entire life? After writing the above paragraph I realized how strongly, deeply it is connected to one of my earliest memories. And why do we remember some things, things that often seem insignificant, and not remember others? Certainly there must be a reason. Perhaps the things we remember are like dots in a puzzle, that, when connected, provide a picture that is our life. And the lines we use to connect the dots are a time line. And perhaps, the things we do not remember are the bulk of our existence, the color, the fill. And maybe, when the last dot is connected to the first, we have come full circle, and the picture of our life is complete. What happens to us then? Time will tell, I suppose.

I remember lying in my bed, in the room I shared with my brother Pete on Andrews Avenue. The walls were lavender. The bed we shared faced South, There were double windows on the South wall of our room, and sheer white curtains billowed in the breeze. There was a Dandelion hill outside the windows that rolled down to a tree lined creek. On the other side of the creek there was a boulevard called MacDade. And on the other side of MacDade were the real houses with the real people. Brick houses with garages and basements, inhabited by people who were somehow and for some reason, better than us. People with children who were not allowed to visit us, play with us, in the “project”. If you lived in the project you were not really legitimate. You were rif-raf. Pitiable. Poor. Yet we were not pitiable or poor. We had mothers and fathers. We had food and clothing. We had television sets. Our little houses were clean and warm. Our fathers went to work everyday and our mothers stayed home and took care of us. We played games in the street at night. We were happy and we were blessed.

After we said our prayers at night, and mother had tucked us in, she put on the record that we loved to listen to as we drifted off to sleep. We could see the stars, and sometimes the moon. There was nothing to be afraid of. Nothing to worry about. How could any child ask for more? If there was more, we were not aware of it. I hope that when my last dot is connected to my first dot, I will be as unafraid and worry-free as I was then. And I hope that you too, will be as blessed when the picture of your life has been completed.

Winkin, Blinkin and Nod, by Eugene Field

Winken, Blinken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe --
Sailed off on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in the beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"
Said Winken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in the beautiful sea --
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish --
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fisherman three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam --
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe
Bringing the fisherman home;
'Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea --
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Winken and Blinken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoes that sailed the skies
Is the wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fisherman three:
And Nod.

The Dummy

The Dummy

Reports are in.   
Grades have been posted.   
No one’s as smart as they thought, 
it seems, especially me.   
Ground-breaking ceremonies are next.   
A monument will be erected on this sight, 
dedicated to the dumbest of dummies: 
Me, with my nose in the air, 
before I knew I knew nothing.   
What arrogance I displayed.   
Knock-kneed and pigeon-toed, 
on my way to the top, 
inverted of course, 
and in mid-nosedive.   

I am:
  • A landmark for the lost: “Make a right at the dummy and continue on to the second traffic light. “
  • A meeting place for old friends: “Let’s get together for dinner.  I’ll meet you at the dummy about eight o’clock.”
  • A background for photographs: “Let me get a shot of you standing over there in front of the dummy.”
An example for future generations:  “Don’t let this happen to you.”    

by Leo

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saint Elizabeth

Saint Elizabeth
Mother of John the Baptist

("God is an oath" — Exodus 6:23).

Zachary's wife and John the Baptist's mother; was "of the daughters of Aaron" (Luke 1:5), and, at the same time, Mary's kinswoman (Luke 1:36), although what their actual relationship was, is unknown. St. Hippolytus (in Niceph. Call., Hist. Eccles., II, iii) explains that Sobe and Anna, their mothers, were sisters, and that Sobe had married a "son of Levi". Whether this indication, probably gathered from some apocryphal writings, and later on adopted by the compilers of the Greek Menologium, is correct, cannot be ascertained. Elizabeth, like Zachary, was "just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame" (Luke 1:6). She had been deprived, however, of the blessings of motherhood until, at an advanced age, a son was promised her by the Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:8-20). When, five months later, Elizabeth was visited in her home by the Virgin Mary, not only was her son sanctified in her womb, but she herself was enlightened from on high to salute her cousin as "the mother of my Lord" (Luke 1:43). According to some modern critics, we should even attribute to her the canticle "Magnificat". After the birth and circumcision of John the Baptist, the Gospels do not mention Elizabeth any more. Her feast is celebrated on 8 September by the Greeks, and 5 November in the Latin Church.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Saint John's Day - There was a man sent from God whose name was John.

Saint John the Baptist in Prison

Juan Fernandez de Navarrete
 1565 and 1570

A Sermon by St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430)
The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s. This point cannot be passed over in silence, and if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual.

John is born of an old woman who is barren; Christ is born of a young woman who is a virgin. That John will be born is not believed, and his father is struck dumb; that Christ will be born is believed, and he is conceived by faith.

I have proposed some matters for inquiry, and listed in advance some things that need to be discussed. I have introduced these points even if we are not up to examining all the twists and turns of such a great mystery, either for lack of capacity or for lack of time. You will be taught much better by the one who speaks in you even when I am not here; the one about whom you think loving thoughts, the one whom you have taken into your hearts and whose temple you have become.

John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb.

You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty.

Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed. Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and shut up? It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, Who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.

St. John the Baptist
Leonardo da Vinci

Commerating Saint John the Baptist

The Nativity of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The Gospel (Luke. 1: 5) relates that the righteous parents of St John the Baptist, the Priest Zachariah and Elizabeth (September 5), lived in the ancient city of Hebron. They reached old age without having children, since Elizabeth was barren. Once, St Zachariah was serving in the Temple at Jerusalem and saw the Archangel Gabriel, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. He predicted that St Zachariah would father a son, who would announce the Savior, the Messiah, awaited by the Old Testament Church. Zachariah was troubled, and fear fell upon him. He had doubts that in old age it was possible to have a son, and he asked for a sign. It was given to him, and it was also a chastisement for his unbelief. Zachariah was struck speechless until the time of the fulfillment of the archangel's words.

St Elizabeth came to be with child, and fearing derision at being pregnant so late in life, she kept it secret for five months. Then her relative, the Virgin Mary, came to share with her Her own joy. Elizabeth, "filled with the Holy Spirit," was the first to greet the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. St John leaped in his mother's womb at the visit of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Son of God incarnate within Her.

Soon St Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and all the relatives and acquaintances rejoiced together with her. On the eighth day, in accordance with the Law of Moses, he was circumcised and was called John. Everyone was amazed, since no one in the family had this name. When they asked St Zachariah about this, he motioned for a tablet and wrote on it: "His name is John." Immediately his tongue was loosed, and St Zachariah glorified God. He also prophesied about the Coming into the world of the Messiah, and of his own son John, the Forerunner of the Lord (Luke. 1: 68-79).

After the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the worship of the shepherds and the Magi, wicked king Herod gave orders to kill all male infants. Hearing about this, St Elizabeth fled into the wilderness and hid in a cave. St Zachariah was at Jerusalem and was doing his priestly service in the Temple. Herod sent soldiers to him to find out the abode of the infant John and his mother. Zachariah answered that their whereabouts were unknown to him, and he was killed right there in the Temple. Righteous Elizabeth continued to live in the wilderness with her son and she died there. The child John, protected by an angel, dwelt in the wilderness until the time when he came preaching repentance, and was accounted worthy to baptize the Lord.

Orthodox Church of America

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eleanor, Franklin, Dylan & Woody

New York, NY, USA — Folk singer Bob Dylan, center, performs with drummer Levon Helm, left, Rick Danko, second left, and Robbie Robertson of The Band at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Jan. 20, 1968. The concert is part of a benefit tribute to the late folk singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie. It was Dylan's first public appearance after his motorcycle accident in Aug. 1966. (AP)

"Woody Guthrie, born on July 14, 1912 in the Okemah, Oklahoma, remains one of the most revered singers, songwriters and social activists in American history, a man whose gritty songs about the nation's also-rans have been translated into dozens of languages, covered by scores of other famous and talented musicians, and sung alongside a million smoky campfires between mouthfuls of coffee, whiskey or S'mores. And it all starts and ends with his masterwork"

Read more about the Woody Guthrie Centennial @  The Atlantic

Dylan singing Guthrie's tribute to Franklin Roosevelt 
at the Tribute to Woody Guthrie concert at Carnegie Hall, January 1968.

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt, don't hang your head and cry;
His mortal clay is laid away, but his good work fills the sky;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He's born in a money family on that Hudson's rocky shore;
Outrun every kid a-growin' up 'round Hyde Park just for fun;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He went away to grade school and wrote back to his folks;
He drew such funny pictures and always pulling a joke;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He went on up towards Harvard, he read his books of law;
He loved his trees and horses, loved everything he saw;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He got struck down by fever and it settled in his leg;
He loved the folks that wished him well as everybody did;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He took his office on a crippled leg, he said to one and all:
"You money changin' racket boys have sure 'nuff got to fall;"
This world was lucky to see him born,

In senate walls and congress halls he used his gift of tongue
To get you thieves and liars told and put you on the run;
This world was lucky to see him born,

I voted for him for lots o' jobs, I'd vote his name again;
He tried to find an honest job for every idle man;
This world was lucky to see him born,

He helped to build my union hall, he learned me how to talk;
I could see he was a cripple but he learned my soul to walk;
This world was lucky to see him born.

You Nazis and you fascists tried to boss this world by hate;
He fought my war the union way and the hate gang all got beat;
This world was lucky to see him born.

I sent him 'cross that ocean to Yalta and to Tehran;
He didn't like Churchill very much and told him man to man;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He said he didn't like DeGaulle, nor no Chiang Kai Shek;
Shook hands with Joseph Stalin, says: "There's a man I like!"
This world was lucky to see him born.

I was torpedoed on my merchant ship the day he took command;
He was hated by my captain, but loved by all ships hands;
This world was lucky to see him born.

I was a Gl in my army camp that day he passed away,
And over my shoulder talkin' I could hear some soldier say:
"This world was lucky to see him born."

I guess this world was lucky just to see him born;
I know this world was lucky just to see him born;
This world was lucky to see him born.

© Copyright 1962 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)
Woody Guthrie

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Goin' to Brownsville

My Grandmother with her Remington 22
at the Ilion Gun Club
July 1937

I recently acquired this photo of my grandmother, Lil Brown, and was shocked but delighted to see her enjoying herself in such a way.  I knew her mostly as a very peaceful religious woman who loved to sing Gospel songs and tend her flowers.  She had a wonderful voice with a natural vibrato. Her voice rose above all the other voices of the congregation, but I loved listening to her most when sitting at her feet with my siblings and my cousins.  One of her favorites was "In The Garden".  I'll never forget the day she showed me the tiny black seeds of her Portulacas.  I was only six years old at the time, and at that moment, I too became a lover of flowers.  In this photo she is with her sister, Ida.
On the back is written "Mrs. Brown, Ilion Gun Club, Ilion, New York, July 1937".

Gramma, I searched all over tarnation and couldn't find hide nor hair of anyone who sings "In The Garden" better than you, so I offer you some Portulacas instead.  You'll have to "settle" for Ry Cooder further on down the page.


 The original Ilion Fish & Game Club was founded in 1907. The club grounds were actually located in downtown Ilion until 1926/27 when they bought the Avery farm located on Barringer Road (which was across from the 1808 Remington Stone House) using the old farm house as the clubhouse. The original clubhouse burned down in the early 1930’s and the current clubhouse was erected in 1933/34 mostly by volunteers (except for the masons) using some of the building material from the Philo Remington house. Around this time there were approx. 1400 members and the annual dues were $1.50. Most of the early records of the club have been eaten by mice and/or passed on by greatly appreciated and missed deceased past members.

History of Ilion, New York
The village of Ilion is situated on the south bank of the Mohawk river in the town of German Flats. Although the town was first settled around 1725 by the German Palatinates, the first known establishment on the present site of Ilion was a store which was started by 1816. With the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 the village began to really flourish. On the canal list it was called Steele's Creek, but it was also known as Morgan's Landing and there was an early settlement called "New London" for which the western part of the present day village was known for many years as "London."

In 1828 Eliphalet Remington (1793-1861) established a small factory for the manufacture of rifles. From 1830 to 1843 the village was known as Remington's Corners, and the first post office established in 1845 was named Remington. The village was incorporated under the name of Ilion in 1852 as Remington was opposed to the use of his name for the village. In 1856 the Remington company added the manufacture of farming tools, in 1870 sewing-machines and in 1874 typewriters. In 1874 with a population of about 2900 the village contained 2 hotels, a national bank, a brewery, a weekly newspaper and several schools and churches and was chiefly noted as the seat of the different Remington companies which employed a large number of men.

In 1910 with a population of about 6500, its principal manufactures were still the Remington typewriters and Remington firearms; other manufactures were filing cabinets and cases and library and office furniture (the Clark & Baker Co), knit goods, carriages and harness, and store fixtures. Many of these factories over the years harnessed the water of Steele's Creek to provide power for their machinery. By 1910 the village had a public library with about 13,500 volumes, a public hospital and a village hall and was served by the New York Central & Hudson river, West Shore railways, Utica & Mohawk Valley Electric railroad and the Erie Canal. The village owned its own water-works and its electric-lighting plant.

[written by Lisa Slaski; references used were "The American Cyclopaedia," by Charles Anderson Dana, 1874, page 180, "The Encyclopaedia Britannica," 11th Edition, Volume XIV, 1910, and the "History of Herkimer County," by George A. Hardin, 1893]

Ruth & Lil
My Mother with Her Mother 1942

Friday, June 15, 2012

Signora dei Pesci

Fisherman's Blues
The Waterboys

I wish I was a fisherman
tumblin' on the seas
far away from dry land
and it's bitter memories
castin' out my sweet line
with abandonment and love
no ceiling bearin' down on me
save the starry sky above
with light in my head
with you in my arms...

i wish i was the brakeman
on a hurtlin fevered train
crashin head long into the heartland
like a cannon in the rain
with the feelin of the sleepers
and the burnin of the coal
countin the towns flashin by
and a night that's full of soul
with light in my head
with you in my arms...

And I know I will be loosened
from the bonds that hold me fast
and the chains all around me
will fall away at last
and on that grand and fateful day
I will take thee in my hand
I will ride on a train
I will be the fisherman
With light in my head
You in my arms...

Light in my head
You in my arms...

Light in my head

With light in my head
You in my arms...