Wednesday, October 1, 2014

holy maven

such a maven

What is one whom others trust as expert, learned, experienced in a field when deep in one’s heart one knows that one knows nothing? Comes to mind years ago on the grounds of Cove School, my friend Parker telling me the proverb that’s stuck with me, part of which goes “He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple - teach him.” Simple doesn’t quite fit: it would be the right word standing among a group of scholars I admire, and even deep in one of their books where I don’t need to crawl into the woodwork. Humble doesn’t get it either, I’m, as the saying goes, quite proud of my humility; so my mind muddles on to another saying, “I don’t have an inferiority complex, I really am inferior,” yep that’s me. 

This week Anu is doing words from Yiddish, which makes me self-conscious because I know just enough German that I should know to keep my stupid mouth shut, and I don’t even know that much Hebrew, the tetragrammaton period full stop, but my ignorance doesn’t stop me from mentoring a Bible Seminar and Adult Sunday School class and even climbing into a pulpit now and again. I’m thinking about author Harry Golden, a lifelong favorite sage and writer.

Reminiscing about his early 20th century childhood as a Jew in the NYC garment district, Harry Golden remembers the drill of being taken by his mother to buy him a suit. There was a -- my word would be liturgy -- for the process that had to be executed just so. Several family members would go along not only to enjoy and help approve the selecting process, but to convey firmness and make sure no shopkeeper thought he could pull a fast one. There would be a member of the family, or perhaps a friend, who knew fabrics and what was a good deal and how to shop and bargain so as to get the very best buy possible. For Harry’s first new suit the expedition included, as I recall, an uncle who was known in the family as a maven who knew materials, cloth, fabrics. He was the right person to take along.

But there was far more to the liturgy. One had to tough bargain, provoke and humiliate the shopkeeper, tell him what a dirty cheat he was, with this crumby, shabby piece of garbage he was trying to put off on them at an exorbitant, robber price. You had to get mad and stalk out of the store in disgust several times and make him chase you down the sidewalk apologizing and offering a better deal and get you back into his shop before you finally agreed to a price. It was an art, buying a suit was an art, a real art.

With one unforgivable slip of the tongue, Harry’s uncle the maven ruined the entire expedition. After storming out of several suit shops exclaiming about what cheap trash was being offered at such robber prices, the party had finally settled into one shop and on one suit for Harry. Seems to me it was brown, maybe double-breasted. Maybe it was for Harry’s bar mitzvah, I don’t remember. They were examining the suit and doing the required chattering about how ugly it was, and how cheaply made, and that the asking price was thievery. Harry’s uncle, who as I recall worked in a garment factory and was reputed to know fabrics picked up the suit and looked at it. Fingering the fabric, he murmured, “Not a bad piece of goods.” 

Harry’s mother was shocked, infuriated. Furious. Saying, “not a bad piece of goods” instead of “cheap junk, poorly made” he had destroyed her bargaining position. This was a twelve-dollar suit that they should have been able to walk out with for six dollars. The best they could do because of the uncle’s outrageous stupidity in uttering “not a bad piece of goods” in the shopkeeper’s hearing, was eight dollars. Ultimately they bought the suit, which would do Harry for years, but his mother fumed all the way home. “Such a maven,” she mocked the uncle, “‘Not a bad piece of goods’, such a maven.” Scoffed and sneered, the uncle was humiliated.

That’s me in Sunday School and Bible Study and in the pulpit. I know not, but they don’t know that, do they. Priest and holy man, I’m their maven, expert, experienced and learned, seminary trained. Seminary Educated. I even reinforce the image by wearing this stupid black shirt and white collar, and pushing forward as if I knew what I'm talking about. Only if there’s other clergy in the room do I hem and haw and hedge. Such a maven. 

TW+ in +Time             

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Dementia

The Last Stop Is Not the End of the Line

Why does one arise so blasted early, why does the mind in the wee hours seize the moment to obsess? And that on matters not even the deranged intellect can resolve, much less in this darkness when only Tōshō is open. Why? Ah, this morning’s extract is from Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America. America, where mental restlessness is pandemic. Except in the Bible Belt, where Ussher reigns and the mind is checked at the door.

This coffee is perfect for the sunrise watch: Trader Joe’s 100% Kona, rich and smooth, whole beans ground in my Coffeemaker Extraordinaire, but what’s that hot thing discomforting my left kidney? Ah: laptop recharger transformer box dissipating heat: science.

Sony +32.0, Toyota down 25 and I can buy or sell from this green sofa if so moved, General Washington would be incredulous. He lived as the Enlightenment set and the Second Great Awakening dawned mixing, Menand asserts, “popular superstition and folk therapeutics with traditional Christian mythology.” 

Actually, we Christians deny being mythological, don’t we.

But my favorite Menand line as a now-and-then electronics fanatic, “the last blast of supernaturalism before science superseded theology as the dominant discourse in American intellectual life.” 

There is an American intellectual life? Intriguing assertion, Louis. Why? Why has “science superseded theology”? While theologians detrain at the firmament and gaze down upon creation, Hubble strikes out for the edge of the universe, visualizes the multiverse, and never looks back.

Next stop, the Big Bang. Is that the end of the line? Depends on who’s speaking (singing if Aslan got there first). 

Imagination without borders is what got us banned from Eden in The Beginning.

It the reader fails to understand, we must read and know different things, eh? I know nothing. Nothing

Nevertheless, RSF&PTL. 

Superstition, therapeutics, mythology, or faith?   


Monday, September 29, 2014

Eagles in Heaven

Eagles in Heaven 

Always in life there’s something else and new to learn, isn’t there. Anu’s wonderful word this morning is luftmensch, which pretty much suits me perfectly at times. Most times. Some airhead priest instead of a realtor or new car dealer as I contemplated my university years: there was no Chrysler-Plymouth dealer here and it was going to be me, Thanks a lot, Buzz. 

There was “nothing but sand” across Hathaway Bridge as my father often said, and I thought to sell it. Instead, a luftmensch, literally an air man selling -- what? A notion of eternity. Ride that across the heavens with me in the yellow Cadillac of my dreams.

Let’s hope there’s plenty of room up there, my friends may be zooming back and forth in F-15 fighter jets and Navy Tomcats. I’ll be 17, they can be whatever age they choose, minimum 21 for hitting the O Club. Even St. Peter has rules.

Raining so hard the walk is cancelled, first time in months.

That’s not the Eagle I meant. Let the reader understand. We're dreamers, baby.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

are you kidding me?

It’s worse than it wasn’t a good Saturday. Buddy Boy, it was a bad Saturday. What happened? South Carolina. Michigan. SCAR I’m stunned. STUNNED. MGoBlue, not stunned just embarrassed yet one more time again, the profane texting acronym starts out WT.. and ends with a question mark. Even the team I most love to hate disappointed me by, as Megan said on FB during the game, apparently their defense didn’t make it to Raleigh. “No. 1 Florida State rallies to beat North Carolina State” are you kidding me? I like a Florida team to be number one, I do not like it to be FSU, but it is -- if I were still a sailor instead of some preacher I could salt it better -- 21-24 at the half? Are you kidding me? There's a profane texting acronym for that too. FSU -- RALLIES -- to win? Are you kidding me? Since when does No. 1 “rally” to win a football game? Somebody better rethink their vote on this ranking. Maybe Thanksgiving Weekend 2014 isn’t looking so hopeless after all. Nah, I already ordered our range crow.

It’s Sunday morning, time for Adonai. See you at church? There are only two good and valid excuses for missing church this morning: 

#1 reason is “feeling too lazy,” in which case here is your dispensation: + granted by a real Episcopal priest, and you don’t have to come.

#2 reason is “sick about Saturday CFB,” in which case stuff it, get your axe out of bed and get dressed for church.


house clearing out giving away update later today --

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Prince of Test & Quarrel

Anyone who has reached this age and stage of life has confronted exasperation and dealt with frustrating situations and issues of uncertainty; not least matters of personal health and wealth, wellbeing of loved ones, death and taxes. This rises to the surface this morning as in the wilderness with Moses the Israelites find that Moses and God have encamped them in a place where there is no water. 

Moses, remember, grew up in the palace as a prince of Egypt. Adopted as an infant he was given an Egyptian name, accustomed to being served and waited on, he knows little or nothing about roughing it. He even speaks Yiddish with an Egyptian accent. Yes, he tended the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, but even that the Lord rescued him from by appearing in the Burning Bush and tasking him to the role of leadership because he probably looked like a movie star. Well, he did look like a movie star, didn't he. 

Moses never sewed on a button, carried a bucket of water from the well, fried bacon over an open fire, or knew which knob to turn on the washing machine. Here in my pre-dotage I may be some fool priest mucking about spouting Bible verses, but at least I was a Boy Scout and can pick out a place to pitch my tent near water, where it’s safe to build a fire, and where I won’t be flooded and swept away if it rains tonight. Poor Moshe is so blinded by the shekinah and the glory of being senior pastor that he can hardly see the mundane world around him.  

So here for tomorrow is the mess Moses has gotten himself into this time:

From the wilderness of Zin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah [Test] and Meribah [Quarrel], because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Believe it or not, even with divine help, Prince Moses even messed this up. Let’s tackle it in Sunday School tomorrow morning, eh?


Exodus 17:1-7 (NRSV) Water from the Rock

Friday, September 26, 2014

Second Post for Today

Second Post for Today

Good second morning, friends is a good way to continue today! Folks who were at church Wednesday evening heard that Linda and I have finally conceded, after two or three years of wrenching back and forth about it, that this wonderful old house and property have just become too much for two octogenarians (no, Linda declines that high honor) in thirteen rooms and 4 1/2 baths, furnished, finished, and decorated with our art and things from two and three family generations! Large yard with cedar trees, fig trees, lemon trees, prolific grapefruit trees, flowering plants including Florida classic azaleas, camellias and gardenias. MLP and the Bay. Not to mention the ubiquitous palm trees. For those blessed with long life, the hour cometh and now is to sit back with a glass of wine and muse on how wonderful it has all been. 

We’ve listed the place with Charlie Commander. A dear friend is going to let us try out her place at the beach to see if we enjoy condo living, and we are browsing possibilities online and driving around. We’ve already moved the hundreds of books out of the house, some to county library, some to church library, most to my office where I’ll sort through them and set aside those I use and mean to keep; the rest to the parish library or shelve in my office for loaning out or giving away. 

Thursday an appraiser and auctioneer came out to look at multiple sets of dishes, crystal, dolls, paintings, objects of art, knickknacks and furniture. For myself, I am finding that once the mountain is scaled, looking down the other side brings back all the excitement and adventure of each Permanent Change of Station move that made our Navy years such fun. 

I’m saying all this today because I’m starting to picture here on my blog, things that we love and use but need to get out of the house right away and so are here today starting to offer to friends and church friends who might enjoy, or need, and will use. No delivery, these things are free for taking away. Taking to use, not taking to sell. There’s no junk. Over coming days I will update list and pics if/as appropriate. Anyone who wants something should email me at but not phone because I’ll never remember. Because we need these things gone, it will be whoever shows up first to get it, not who emailed me first and asked me to save something!! Here’s a starter list, some with pics, some without.

Swivel stool. There are two of these. One is worth infinitely more than the other because Fr. Tom personally sat on it many mornings typing +Time blog posts. Free though for the coming and getting.

A towel hanger/warmer, no pic yet. Never used.

NordicTrack treadmill with 30 x 56 track. Really nice one. Who will use it may have it free for the taking away; wherever we live next will have an exercise room. 

Flowered family room sofa 90 x 36, often the joy of my nap time. Imagine having something in your living room and being able to hang a sign over it, "Father Tom Slept Here."

and going with the sofa and two pillows that match the ottoman, items from Harrison House, we’ve loved them, goes the

Blue ottoman 28 x 45

Recumbent exercise bike, it’s upstairs in my bedroom, I used to faithfully ride it exactly 10.1 miles every morning without fail. No pic yet.

Glider chair with glider footstool, magnificent furniture and extraordinarily comfortable, my granddaughters were nursed gliding in them. After I got them I sat there many cold mornings gliding back and forth, snuggled up warm and writing my blog posts. A historical item: Father Weller glided here. I will not deliver the set, but someone may come get it for a loving home.

Computer desk 60 wide, no pic yet.

Blue leather chair, custom made by a furniture factory in North Carolina. Singularly comfortable. No pic yet because it's loaded up with art that we've taken down off the walls: maybe tomorrow.

Dinette chair. There may be one or two more in the attic, I’m not sure. Rollers, and swivel, quite comfortable at table or desk. 

An extraordinarily comfortable turquoise leatherette easy chair (long Linda’s favorite chair for sitting until she inherited my mother’s platform rocker). Use and enjoy as-is or have it reupholstered. No pic yet, but soon, maybe tomorrow. 

If interested, kindly email me first, no just showing up unexpected and unannounced at my door, please. Any stranger who shows up at my door without emailing me first will be turned away, sorry. I'll tell the emailer whether the item is still here.

We are boldly going where we have never gone before: off into ancient age. Ahead, warp seven, Scotty.


Delightful Gulf Party

St. Andrews Bay Times
St. Andrews, Florida, June 22, 1916

Delightful Gulf Party

Monday evening a party of young people with large baskets well filled boarded a launch and sped across the bay to the Gulf where several hours were spent very pleasantly bathing, emptying those baskets and otherwise enjoying themselves only as young people can.

Those constituting the party were Misses Gaynor, Eva and Laura Thompson, Dorothy and Grace Ware, Gladys Wilcox, Lydia and Ruth Smith, Elsie Jordan and Mrs. C. . Gideon, accompanied by "Rosy" Nelson, Earl Thompson, "Rube" Williams, George and Harley Combs, A. R. Folks, F. A. Reynolds, Alfred Weller and a Mr. Treadway.

They returned to St. Andrews in the wee small hours of the night, feeling that time had passed only too soon.


Alfred was 16 years old at the time. My father always said lovingly that Alfred was the apple of Mom and Pop's eye. 

other news in the same edition of the Times for June 22, 1916 --


The fishing smack “Annie and Jennie” of the Bay Fisheries Co. of this place, is in port from the snapper banks with a good catch.

The fishing smack Martha Lillian of the Bay Fisheries Company, returned from the snapper banks Monday and reported rough weather in the Gulf. Her mainsail was completely carried away in a gale.

The smack Bonita, Alexander master, was in port Monday with a good catch of red snappers for the Bay Fisheries Co.

Smack Princess, Capt. Andrew, was in port Monday awaiting good weather.


I had an email this week from the grandson of O.T. Melvin, who was shipwrecked on the Annie & Jennie when they lost the range lights leaving out of St. Andrews pass. Dr. Vagias’ grandfather was one of only two men who survived the wreck. Dr. Vagias shared with me his grandfather’s memory that he walked the beach for days afterward and found the body of my uncle Alfred, who was lost in the wreck. And of that night that was so catastrophic for my family, including “He always said that after the men went into the water, he could hear their screams but was unable to help them. Then, the screams, he said, died out one by one. ‘I can still hear their voices all these years later’ he would say.” 

Dr. and Mrs. Vagias are to come over from Niceville next week to meet us and to see our old homestead that my grandparents built in 1912, and where my family were living at the time.

Over the now nearly four years I’ve been blogging daily, first on CaringBridge leading up to my heart surgery at Cleveland Clinic and then here on +Time, I’ve several times shared family memories and stories. One has been my own keen awareness that had that shipwreck not occurred Mom and Pop’s hearts would not have been broken that day, they would never have left this house and moved away trying to run from the memories of St. Andrews Bay, and my father and mother would never have met, and I would never have been born. Some in my family don’t understand my sense of owing my life to Alfred; and of living here in his house in his place and in place of his children and grandchildren, and thinking of him every single time I touch the bannister every single time I come down the stairs, every single time all these years. There’s a sense in Jewish theology, from whence comes our Christianity, that we live on through the loving memories of those who live on after us. I think in that sense, that even though he died at 18, Alfred may have lived on longer than anyone I've ever known. 

Where will he be in another hundred years? And where will I laugh?

My deepest memories have been from my father, and my grandfather and grandmother, Mom and Pop, telling me about Alfred and the wreck of the Annie & Jennie. Just this week another dear friend said she is moving to Lake Caroline, next to where Mom and Pop built a house in the early to mid 1940s, and my memories of the dirt roads there at the time, and the dirt road that runs east/west between East Caroline and West Caroline, where on both sides there were tall, thick blackberry bushes; in late summer they were always loaded with blackberries and my cousin Ann and I would pick blackberries and take them home and Mom would stop whatever she was doing and make blackberry cobbler for us. It was always sandy and gritty but so sweet with sugar and love.

The devastation of Mom and Pop’s life when they lost Alfred, my father showing me “my brother’s casket was right there” in front of the fireplace here in my living room, the 18 steps in the stairs and the bannister. Mom died January 23, 1947, my first experience with death and my own life's heaviest trauma because we were so close. Pop died in June 1964 while we were stationed in Japan. The last time I visited Pop, June 1963 just before the Navy moved us to Japan, talking with him about this old house and asking why he had never come to visit after my parents bought the house back in 1962. Hearing him say quietly, “I can’t go back there because of Alfred.”

Some things and places and memories in life just carry your heart away.

Early autumn morning on my downstairs front porch. There’s that channel marker light, flashing green. At me.