Saturday, November 22, 2014


seascape: smell of gray

They are visible, completely outlined by their lights, two ships anchored offshore overnight. On the horizon. Couple miles out? it's hard to judge distances at sea. Merchant ships. They were there when I went to bed and they are there now. The sunsets are beautiful, sometimes magnificent, but what I like best about being here and so high up and able to see so far may be the sea, its sound in the dark with the sliding door cracked, and its ships. Even the best Navy years were the ships. 

A warship not only is but feels very different from a cruise ship. It’s no nonsense. Gray. And the smell. The smell: a Navy ship has a smell that comes back to me in this darkness. What was it? Paint? I don’t remember, paint? oil? the oil in the paint? steel, does steel have a smell? It’s not the salt sea, what then, I don’t remember, but passageways, storerooms, when you go inside, below decks, every space, every void has that smell. Best was the destroyer, fifty-five years ago, everything about it, steel, sailors and smell. 

Someone who served in her years ago wrote online that from where he lives he can see the USS TRIPOLI tied up at her dock. I can see her too, but she's at sea. At sea I used to check every one of my spaces every evening after supper. Took a couple hours. That was forty-five years ago and I don’t recall how many spaces, several dozen or more, up and down ladders, deep in the ship, some interior spaces and some against the skin of the ship where you could hear the sea rushing by, and feel it if you touched the steel. Outside your stateroom and the wardroom you wore your hat if only because coming up a ladder into the wheel of a closed hatch it gave you protection; but the smell, I remember the smell. You get used to it, but you never don’t smell it. 

It makes the rest of the world smell strange. 

Eventually it leaves your nostrils. It left me that 1971 morning as I drove out of San Diego for the last time. I wonder if those merchant ships offshore have it. If they’re as clean as a U. S. Navy warship I bet they do. It must be paint then, eh? What? The smell of gray.

Coffee this early morning, a soft chair that leans back comfortably, a warm light blanket over legs and lap, sound of the sea and lights: two ships on the horizon.

Do the ships give me wanderlust? No, not wanderlust: memories, but no longing. They complete the scene. What’s the sea without ships?


Friday, November 21, 2014

A to V

From A to V

Oh my, it’s so true. Anu Garg’s Thought For Today, “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do” (Voltaire 1694-1778). Yet at this point in life what can one say or do but press on. The thought is not all that different to my recall of our discussion at seminary thirty-five or so years ago, of Anselm’s thoughts on atonement. (a) In that one’s obligation, one’s debt to God is to live a perfectly sinless life, (b) even one sin cannot be made up for by doing good, because good is one’s obligation anyway; but (c) in God’s perfect justice, sin debt must be paid; and in that because of (a) such payment is beyond human doing, (d) only God’s own self is able to pay the debt, which (e) was paid once for all by Christ on cross.

If that’s not quite accurate, I’m not about to dig back into Anselm this morning, and I don’t buy Anselm anyway; but Voltaire’s quotation has it right. I could have done other, different, better. I could have taken another bus, boarded a different train; but here I am, bus left and missed my train, standing on the platform watching the caboose round the bend and across the heavens.

+++   +++   +++ 

Always, Anselm’s successor four centuries later, Thomas Cranmer, in the daily office  

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name.

and in Cranmer’s litany, with its theology of atonement,

REMEMBER not, Lord Christ, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins: Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.
The thoughts, the theme, Anselm, Cranmer, Garg, Voltaire, seem more appropriate to Lent than to the bursting to be free anticipatory joy of Episcopalians humming but not singing Christmas carols that Advent has evolved, or devolved, into in our time. But as we creep through the dregs of fall and on into winter, March seems a long way off. Too far, when life itself is so unsure. Or too soon. Let the reader understand.

Dearly have I loved Thomas Cranmer, but his portraits are always so dour. As though he suddenly realized the problem: he forgot to drink his prune juice. 

No matter.


Boy howdy, that didn't go where I intended. I was thinking of Bill Cosby, poor Bill I was thinking except that it's poor me, losing the wonderful humor and loving gentleness that Bill was to me all these years. Bill is stewing in his own juice as many a male would do if life caught up with him in the end; but it's poor me, I'll miss the Bill Cosby I loved all those years. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Like everything except Halley’s Comet, comes round every year the Feast of Christ the King.
 It was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to keep us mindful that humans are not supreme, in response to the rise of fascism and its personality cult in Europe and especially Italy. Christ the King Sunday has subsequently been taken up throughout the Christian church, including the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism generally, because we love to celebrate. Also, if the pope says it, we scoff that we're not under the pope and do it anyway because it's such a great idea. Why we don't just go home to Rome I've never been quite certain. Anyway, what happens? Denominations that don’t follow the church calendar miss it, but we sing a couple of great, rousing hymns and think ahead to Advent. 

To some the idea of a king is offensive and don’t like it even associated with God, both because of the authoritarian flavor of monarchy, the idea of beings ranked qualitatively when all blood is red and the royals take themselves ludicrously serious what with bowing and curtsying even to each other and keeping a list of who has to curtsy first; and because as to monarchy, even the primary terms are patriarchal, male sexist: king, kingdom, lord, lordship, father, son, even he, his as in “Blessed be his kingdom now and for ever” and “It is right to give him thanks and praise. And so, with a nod in that direction the church quietly shifts to neutral nouns and pronouns. Sovereign instead of king. Reign of God instead of kingdom of God. Blessed be God's kingdom (oops) now and for ever. It is right to give our thanks and praise. The holy gospel of our savior Jesus Christ according to Matthew. And such. Even the notion Queen of Heaven does not offset the overall maleness. Or the madness of getting caught up in it.

It does not do at all to scoff at the views, politics and social outlook of others, I keep reminding myself, with my scorn for those whose certitude on any subject is set in concrete different from my own. The ridiculousness of my own certainty is sure. Several times, I have tried to facetiously cast my own certainty in outrageous absurdity, but my attempt at humorous self-ridicule always misses the mark somehow, such that I come off arrogant and spoil it all, humiliate myself, and must apologize and go home embarrassed. Over the years, one of my favorites has been the ludicrousness of Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall, talking to Alice.
 In the outrageous conversation, HD uses the word “glory” to mean “a nice knock-down argument,” misusing the word such that he makes no sense. Alice calls him on it and the pompous ass retorts -- Lewis says "in rather a scornful tone" -- “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” I love that Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and especially the outrageous pomposity of HD's ignorance, and have tried several times to turn it round on myself, but my effort always fails miserably and I certainly will never try again. Not soon. 

We still and nevertheless have the Feast of Christ the King notwithstanding the contempt of many for subtle, even unconscious, unwitting male domination in the society, and their antagonism toward those who don't perceive it.

For myself, I love seven-year-old Alice and would like a grandmother for president next time. If we could get Golda Meir. She was one tough cookie.

As we learn from Humpty Dumpty, every conversation doesn’t have to flow logically or make perfect sense, or indeed any sense at all to those in the know who know they know, and to those who know not and know not that they know not. Quite often, they are one and the same. 

Thursday morning breakfast. Tuna Melt sandwich made with canned pink salmon stirred in a teaspoon of Hellmann's mayonnaise, two slices of 35-calorie thin wheat bread, and no cheese. Strong black coffee from my magic machine. Sweet (the meal, never the coffee, never, never, never sweet coffee).

A glory of Anglicanism, or at least of the flavor that I have known, is that we do not feel called to be finally definitive, and we are not in the least bothered by inconsistency.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's a long way to Tipperary,

it’s a long way to go
It's a long way to Tipperary
and the sweetest girl I know ...

Interesting earliness this morning, of nostalgia. Scrolling FB, there’s William’s name, William England. One of my super-smart students those years at HNES, he’s now a senior at UFla, which I knew because he and Kristen were in the same class at HNES. He’s a sideline photographer for the Gators and apparently plays basketball there. William I expected to go his father’s path to medical school, if only because his dad used to let him scrub and watch heart surgery, but FB wandering I see he’s going to Navy OCS on graduation, then to Pensacola for flight training. Happy days in the air, William, enjoy landing a jet fighter on a postage stamp at sea! Life Is Good.

See, the mind does this traveling, to Fall 1956, my own senior year at UFla, excitement at my acceptance for Navy OCS, a mind’s quick trip to Newport, Rhode Island, the green 1948 Dodge sedan that mama and I chose between it and the blue one that May 1948 day at the Bay Line depot after Karl Wiselogel called and said, “your new car’s on the boxcar, you can go choose which one you want.” 

Nine years later, Linda and I had the green Dodge my senior year at Gainesville, not like that red Porsche on William’s FB page, back to Newport years later for Naval War College, frequenting Mack’s Clam Shack and that lobster house on the waterfront downtown -- climb up on the side of the vat and pick out my lobsters, dollar each. My God but Newport was cold in winter, frigid, snow plow scraping by in the wee hours, covering up my car at the curb. Clanging bell in Newport harbor I could hear from my pillow. Narragansett Bay: the Jamestown Ferry, whistling at night for it’s last crossing, also from my warm pillow. Civilization loses the war when it trades a ferry for a bridge. 

Bonnie Hale has her open heart surgery today at Cleveland Clinic, Bonnie in blessings and prayers, and her medical team, and her boys. Bonnie’s on the second tier, which means this afternoon. Mine was first tier, on the trolley from hotel to heart institute about four o’clock in the morning, in the extreme bitter cold of a January predawn in Cleveland, packing dreams just in case.  

Bitter cold in Cleveland now also, and unless he’s home now, Jacob is still in Cleveland teaching a course at the NASA school, Jacob Williams, posting pictures of the coldest parking lot under the Milky Way. We warned Jacob but he went anyway. Every other week for some months or a couple years thirty and more years ago I drove from Harrisburg west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Cleveland in my business, coordinating with my clients Gould Ocean Systems Division and the Australian Department of Defence, I know it was 1979 because that was where I drove my first trip in my first new Cadillac, a red Sedan deVille.

Mind again, the traveling mind: Jacob and his family dear to me all our years at Trinity, Apalachicola. At Christmas and Easter, Jacob’s mom baked for our Eucharist the most beautiful Greek bread, with Greek words and decorated with cherries. In the mind: a packed, overcrowded church, little children coming to the Altar rail, asking for a cherry with their chunk of Bread. “Father Tom! Can I have a cherry?!” The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven. An old black Chevrolet pickup truck rolling down the alley, stopping at the back gate and Neumann Marshall walking to the rectory kitchen door with a mess of mullet for our supper. Apalachicola, where the love was so thick you could feel it. Trinity Church with the old prayer-soaked walls, as Mamie said. Wednesday evening Bible Study, Ina Margaret dashing into the rectory with a huge platter of fried mullet she’d just netted at Indian Pass. Netted, cleaned and fried. Piping hot. OMG. Life Is Good. 

Where was I? Gainesville? Newport? Apalachicola? Cleveland? 

Cleveland? Is that you, Grover? 

Now mine because Joe brought him to me in Cleveland to keep me company for my open heart surgery, there I named him for the president even though the city was named for General Cleaveland, the surveyor and the local newspaper dropped the “a” so it would better fit on the masthead of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a strange way to name a city. Grover is my teddy bear. First, he was Patty’s, Joe brought him to me, he’s mine now, Grover.

We brought in healthy potted azalea cuttings from Patty’s Garden yesterday afternoon, because it seems as bitter in PC as it is in Cleveland this morning.

Mind’s eye: a long way round.

St. Andrews Bay to Lake Erie. ECP to BKL, an hour and forty-five minutes at forty-five thousand feet. It's a long way.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

glass darkly

Glass Darkly

Driving away from the church office one pleasant summer afternoon some months ago, I honored the Stop sign at the intersection of 3rd Street and Bonita Avenue. Intending a left turn onto Bonita, I found myself unintentionally but nevertheless almost a foot into the left lane, but no matter, as there was no traffic, so I didn't back up. As I paused momentarily, however, a beat up red Ford Crown Victoria rolled up to the intersection from my right and turned left in front of me, into the 3rd Street lane that I was slightly violating. The driver of the Ford, a rough-looking man perhaps in his thirties and whose personal elegance suited that of his car, glared, shook his fist and swore viciously at me, a rage of obscenities that I could hear, because both our driver windows were open. 

It was an unsettling experience of personal violation. Emotional assault, rape of sorts.

An elderly white-haired man, I probably looked to him, nearly two generations younger, like an incompetent old fool who shouldn’t be driving at all. And may indeed be exactly that. My recent stumble, fall, and bloody ride to the ER by ambulance made me think -- again -- ? -- about myself. 

My stitches are out, the external ones, nose and chin are grown back onto the face. Hopefully, stitches inside my lips and mouth will soon disappear, dissolve is the word. Before going to the parish office to lead our Bible Seminar this morning, I am starting, resuming actually, a phase of cardiac rehab that I hope will help me build back up at least to the physical condition and mental alertness that I felt three years ago after my heart surgery and vigorous recovery. If I am called to live into ancient age, at least I should do so responsibly and ably, eh, make it enjoyable for self and less worrisome for others. Except for holidays, the exercise regimen will be Tuesday and Friday mornings, conveniently at the BayMed complex a couple blocks from the church. So, I’m addressing myself.

The driver of the red Ford made me mindful yet one more time again, that no two of us see things or other people exactly the same. He saw an idiot, a fool. I saw an unintended innocent stray into his territory, for which I would have backed up or apologized, and mindless road-rage hiding in anonymity. Who was that strange person? Would he have reacted so had I been his grandfather? Who was correct? Or was there objectivity at all? 

There was in fact not an impartial point of view on the scene. And it’s the way life is, all of it. I myself sometimes drive that trashy red Ford Crown Vic -- as do some of the people whom I like and respect the most in life, people on both sides of the American political span, and on all points of the Christian religious spectrum and outside it. I have my views, many through a glass darkly, which are products of who and what I am, the result of who, what and where I have been these eight decades.

Indeed yes, I am opinionated, have my own moral outrages and outrageous moralities. My own rear view mirror and shaking fist ... 

... National news media leading, inciting, a lynch mob mentality to try, condemn and execute the Ferguson police officer and doing the same with the grand jury that is deliberating his case. HuffPost is especially guilty, so much so that they have earned my utter contempt with their goading catch phrases. ... 

... Mindless stirring up talk of impeaching the president for this or that, currently Immigration: "is he heading into an impeachable offense?" CSM stirring, inciting if for no other reason than that they earn their being by reporting news, so stir up more hatred to attract more readers. Impeachable offense? The fact is, whatever the House of Representatives votes to impeach is impeachable. For God’s sake, we don’t need another national frenzy of political hatred, there are real problems in the world, let the man serve out his term and be gone. ... 

... Affordable Health Care: standing outside watching as no expert on anything, least of all medical care and its administration, I wonder what is to defend about a society that outlaws abortion and condemns contraception yet does not want to provide medical care for its human produce: the children of the poor. ... 

... Same-Sex cohabiting and marriage: in that it’s none of my business, I wonder how it could possibly be any of your business unless you are in the closet hoping to throw attention elsewhere. ... 

... ISIS the 21 century moral equivalent of Nazis, Stalin and Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. My military mind road rage response to their beheading Americans is to brush aside morality, history and reason and start pushing red buttons, whumps in the darkness and flashes of light over the horizon, until that part of the earth is a radioactive wasteland uninhabitable for a thousand years, and let the future be judge in a sequel to The Road which no one is left alive to write, much less read, and thank you very much Noah. ... 

... Kim Jong-un? send him an owl with an explosive howler. Or show his handsome face to a drone operator ... 

... Four killed in terrorist attack on West Jerusalem synagogue, Palestinians are fast easing themselves out of my sympathy. ... 

And this is a priest? No, just another human. How to take me? For one, when I run for president, I'm voting for the other candidate.

How much more deeply can humans hate, when neighbor is hated even more than enemy, is the rhetorical question.

And what is God’s future for us? Are we already deep into it? Perennial apocalyptic or Alas, Babylon? I don’t like what I see. In the mirror. Rear view. Driving this red Ford. 


Monday, November 17, 2014

dusk to dawn

It’s late. DayDate in the upper right corner reads Mon 3:58 AM. A decent sleep after a decent day and before another. Day follows day. And night, night. Also dawn, dawn, eh. Actually dawn, dusk, and there was evening and there was morning, another second day. Still a month before the shortest day of the year. In two weeks Hurricane Season is over and we can relax another six months, but, hey! spray in the face so avoiding the concrete steps because the sprinkler is going and walking down the side street to get the PCNH, almost hurricane weather. No breeze, that’s a stiff wet wind coming up Calhoun in my face. Flash of lightning over the Gulf. Green channel marker across the darkness: that you, Daisy? 

A sharp tornado hook looking at Greensboro.

It’s what to write? isn’t it. No, it isn’t what to write, it’s what not to write. A friend reading my post gets my temperature, another reads between my lines. Some get me well enough to give, not caution, but maybe pause? What would I not have suspected? Am I completely open? No, this is a blog not a journal. Why so cryptic this morning, I feel like I’m sneaking down an alley, darting from garbage can to garbage can, pausing behind a dumpster to look round and make sure no one is following. That I’m not being followed. Is that you back there, Carroll? I see you.

Some mornings are more weird than others, some not. And some blog posts. Some evenings too: I don't go to a concert to stand and applaud, but to escape; at the concert last evening I disappeared into the music and tried to stay, struggled with whether to come out, they had to come get me. Especially the Williams piece from Schindler’s List, though I didn’t hear the siren this time. I felt the cold, watched the folk dancing but didn’t hear the siren, the Gestapo coming in their black maria. The music is so real it takes you where you wish no one had ever had to live and die: doomed and afraid.

After the concert: a leftover meatball from Sunday dinner, pills with leftover tea, early to bed. Dawn. Monday.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Not First Clown

It never having been my wont to play First Clown, my plan for this morning is adjusted slightly. Our Adult Sunday School class will go as usual, with Mike and me leading a visit to the OT book Judges, from which our First Reading is taken. Judges is not just one more OT tale of horror after Joshua with Achen at Ai, it has a circular scheme of salvation as the nation Israel matures from Moses’ Exodus and Joshua’s conquest of Canaan to the doubtful prestige of having their own king. As well as raising up legendary heroes like Samson, Judges is full of great stories of swords spilling guts, mallets and tent pegs, and pulling down pillars to crush Philistines, so that Boys‘ Sunday School classes will have wonderful grotesquerie to chortle over in later millennia Bible stories. 

Anyway, my intent is to help teach Sunday School but not be the sanctuary clown, anyone who wants to laugh at the clown has to come to Sunday School. 

CFB? Poor Miami, they must not have had scouts at FSU games this year, to let themselves be led into the Seminole Rally Trap strategy. Too late to say War Eagle, what a shame. Georgia Tech? where have you been lurking, that was an ouch for Clemson. Roll Tide, a great topple, Alabama could return to the top except statistically for the unbeatens, but I didn't like MissState and I don't like the idea of FSU back to Number One. Sorry, Gators, but for this one annual game everyone knows I’d rather see Amy happy than me happy: of all institutions in my life, only Cove/HNES tops UFlorida, let the reader understand.