Saturday, January 31, 2015

+Time: Incredible

Okay, so what happens? Well, yesterday morning before going to Chuck’s Cardio, I lie down, curl up for a short nap, and go back to sleep so totally and soundly that I slept through my cardio event. Did I make up for it later? Yes. I went to the house and worked my tail off continuing the work of cleaning up and clearing out. Two grungy windows in my upstairs office, facing north and over the back stairs, now open easily and are sparkling with their wavy old glass panes that Mom and Pop first looked through more than a century ago. 

In those days, that back east room that last was my upstairs office was EG’s bedroom. Maybe EG and Ruth shared it, IDK. The front bedroom was Alfred’s. The other side upstairs was first one large room, a game room with a billiards table. During the WW2 housing shortage, that huge room was changed into a roomy apartment of two rooms and a bathroom, the front room being a living room and bedroom, the back room a kitchen with dining area. The large north-facing windows were closed in and a small bathroom window installed looking west. In December 1962 when we were home from Ann Arbor for the holidays, my father and I changed the kitchen to a bedroom. All the plumbing is still there tucked away inside the wall. I don't remember whether the linoleum is still under the carpet.

This morning very early, coffee at 3:15 and sermon prep, after having thought all week about what I want to say on Sunday morning.

The sun is coming up and the tide is out. 

Every sunrise is incredible. 

And every sunset.

And life itself. I can’t believe this.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Think. Nope.

Wake at 1:15, up, back to sleep, wake at 4:15 same reason, sit up dopily, up to stay. Coffee in an old plastic mug, blue velvet chair by the window bayside, what? Same green light flashing as always and ever. 

Much less inspiration, lacking inclination to write. Open spider solitaire and easily finish a game that last night was impossible. Think. Nope. Wordsmith concludes the week with scabrous. Jiminy Christmas, a week’s worth of words exactly tailored to fit my being: scurvy, apoplectic, jaundiced, metastasize, scabrous. Think. Nope. The window frames total soft blackness with just that one green light tormenting me from, what? two miles away and across eternity. Think. Still nope. Tap icon for favorite comic strip, not the favorite, just one of half a dozen favorites: Candorville. Lemont is talking with his nutty psychiatrist about his relationship with his son Lionel. 

Not sleepy last night so opened and read three or four chapters of All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. A novel, perfect to my taste, gripping, short chapters. Marie, a little blind girl in Paris as the bombs begin to fall, alternating with Werner, and his sister Jutta, German orphans with wild, white-blond hair. Each chapter is but a page or two: I can read a bit at a time and hope it never ends.

Cardio this morning, Chuck’s Shop. Do I look forward to it? The mind isn’t working, I look forward to nothing but looking out over my Bay.


Light in the eastern sky to the south, and a boat heading out. Bow light and red port light just the other side of my empty coffee mug. Now orange stripes between the gray.

+Time with Tom+

Thursday, January 29, 2015

by example

At the moment the lectionary has us reading through 1st Corinthians Sunday by Sunday. This comes round every three years in the lectionary cycle, and this is the year. 

Although scholars seem to prefer Romans as the most brilliant, mature and theological of Paul's writings, I like 1st Corinthians for sensible things, practical guidance that Paul tells us all through it. But sometimes, especially when read out of context, Paul can be confusing and even profoundly boring. 

In the 1st Corinthians 8:1-13 reading for Sunday, Paul tells us that it may be a sin to do perfectly harmless things if you know that doing them will scandalize people who are not as sophisticated and modern as you consider yourself to be. The issue Paul uses is meat. 

In the days of the Roman Empire, there was no Publix or Winn-Dixie to buy groceries: the meat that people bought in the marketplace to take home for supper had been brought to market from altars where the animal had been slaughtered as a sacrifice to some god, some idol or other. Sacrificed and then sold in the marketplace. That was a custom in that pagan society, and it was good and profitable business. Some Christians, former pagans who understood the nature of such sacrifice, were saying that it was a sin to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, because to eat the meat was to acknowledge the sacrifice and worship the god, the idol. Paul says it’s harmless, meaningless to eat the meat, because the idol is nonexistent, not a god at all, only the Lord is God; so it really doesn't matter if you eat that meat. 

But Paul goes on to say that there are many people who believe that you must not eat the meat because if you do you are worshiping the idol; and to them, if you are a Christian and eat the meat anyway, to them it means you are telling people that it's OK to worship that idol as well as worshiping the One God and Father of Jesus Christ. 

Again. It was a pagan society in which many gods were worshiped, and one means of worship was to take an animal to the sacrificial altar and have it slaughtered in sacrifice to the idol god. Paul says that although eating that meat is meaningless, you may mislead people, confuse them, scandalize them, cause them great anguish, and even turn them away from Christ, and that's a sin.That's what the issue is all about here in thie Second Reading for next Sunday.

It's a lesson worth bringing into modern life. We think we are so sophisticated that "anything goes" and nothing is a sin, and in doing that we risk misleading people who are more naive and innocent. We may stir up anguish, hatred and divisions in the church, among the faithful, in the family and home, among those who trust us and follow us through life. Although we no longer sacrifice to idols as did the pagans, we have our own indulgences and excesses, which may be the same thing. Our god, our idol, is that on which we spend our time and money. 

No one is so insignificant but that someone is following them and going their way, doing what they do, accepting their values, if for no other reason than that they know no other way to go. 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Darkness and, Unclean

Darkness and, Unclean

Wide news coverage, here we are seventy years on from liberation of Auschwitz, one of many concentration camps run by the Third Reich to exterminate entire segments of humanity. The Story and stories are well known, remembered by some of us, recorded by victims, written about -- I have written here about that period in my life. There was no television, no internet, wifi: we got our news in the daily paper but most vividly in the newsreels at the local movie theater. For us here in Panama City in that time, the Ritz Theatre. Where the Martin is now, why in its recovery and renovation the Ritz was misnamed Martin IDK, but OK, it's done. The other movie theater was the Panama a couple blocks south down Harrison, maybe where the parking lot is now at Oak and Harrison. I’ve written before that I was never allowed in the Panama Theater, my mother forbade it, something about dirty old men. We only were allowed the Ritz. In my earliest memory, admission was eleven cents until you were twelve years old, then a quarter. 

A remembrance of horror that early part of 1945 as the war was coming to a victorious close was newsreels about what our allied forces found as they pushed through Germany and the lands of the Third Reich, including parts of Poland. The Holocaust is rubbished by moronic fools, bigoted imbeciles of racism and hatred, especially religious and cultural hatred; but it happened, happened in my time and memory, and we saw the pictures. As the war in Europe was ended by American and allied forces, newsreels showed emaciated creatures barely recognizable as human, prisoners holding on to concentration camp fences and gates as American, British and Russian soldiers set them free. Showed mounds of naked, rotting corpses twisted and grinning at Creator, their dying grimace at heaven and wondering "why?" and "where?" Showed huge metal ovens where human beings were cremated, some stuffed in alive, locked in, and cooked to horrible death. Film showed us as oven doors were opened, human bones spilling out, scorched skulls and bones, burnt skeletons. The memory is a horror that has never left me, pictures that never go away, laying in me, not coincidentally after the anti-German propaganda that blanketed us during the war years, a hatred of everything German, contempt that seventy years on I still fight to overcome, and that in the last several years brought me to recoil in appalled dismay and shame at finding out my primary heritage is German, not English as I had always been told. Not English, but one Andreas Wäller who in the 18th century emigrated to America from Hamm in Westphalia. Andreas, of course, had naught to do with the German Holocaust of the 20th century, but left relatives behind in Germany, which doubtless means that my own blood kin undeniably saluted the Nazi flag and would have been part of all that implies and entails. And I see no change; antisemitism in Germany seems as present as ever, lying hidden for two generations and three, as insidious and evil as our own racism. There was no innocence: pictures and videos from the Third Reich show frenzied Germans screaming “sieg heil” and hailing the times, saluting the Fuhrer: the nation was complicit to a man, to a woman, to a child. Andreas Wäller in the Hitlerjunge. Shame of my being, and guilt.

A hypocrite of lowest order, I love German cars and the German language, German music, German food and beer while despising all things human, the worst that we can be. Sensing my heritage and my kin, I rush to wash my hands, to bathe but what cannot be soaked away.

The Auschwitz seventieth anniversary observance is not celebratory but ugly, stirring stories, experiences, personal memories and visions of horror. As long as humans inhabit the planet, our era of evil and cruelty ought never be forgotten. This is what we can be, and are. Forgiveness, which is unthinkable, can only come from those who were murdered, and their loved ones who survived and remember -- -- and from their generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren unto the ages of ages who, like the descendants of the Ethiopian eunuch, will never be. Germany.

Germany. German. But then My Lai, and then Shock and Awe, and I cannot even refuge beneath Old Glory.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Starts Next Tuesday, Feb 3rd

Syllabus: 2015 Spring Session Tuesday Morning Bible Seminar, HNEC

Mentor & Sponsor: Tom Weller

Place: Mary Stuart Poole Library. Use either door. The street door is probably more convenient for those who park on 3rd Street.

When: Tuesday mornings 10:00 to 11:15. Please arrive between 9:30 and 10:00 for coffee, a slight snack, and to visit. Kindly be on time so as not to enter during our prayer or disrupt the class startup. We sit down at 10:00, convene with prayer at 10:05, and adjourn promptly at 11:15 so people can keep lunch plans. 

Class Schedule: February 3, 10, 17, 24. March 3, 10, 17, 24. No class March 31 (Holy Week, priests are frantic). April 7, 14, 21, 28. May 5, 12, 19, 26. We have a child at college, so if I need to cancel a session to go to some college event I will let you know. Because people’s personal and family schedules vary and change, everyone misses some sessions. No one is expected to attend all sessions. Each session stands on its own so that there’s no catching up to do if you miss. People are expected to come when they want to and miss when they can’t come, but if you’ll be absent it’s helpful if you tell us (

Study. Our first two sessions will continue the Gospel according to Mark that we studied our Fall 2014 Session: one or two sessions beginning with Mark chapter 10 with Secret Mark “restored,” and we will discuss Secret Mark again to get back into form. After that, we decide as a group what to read and study. Mostly, this is not a devotional style Bible study but variation of the so-called “critical” approach used in Bible courses at "mainline church" seminaries. By the way, “critical” does not mean throwing stones, it means probing history, form, text, editing, perhaps especially trying to grasp what the author wrote and meant to say and to whom and when; and how and why the text may have been changed after being written. It’s enormous fun and always respectful and reverent.

Material. If you have a Study Bible, bring it, any translation is fine, it’s interesting to have a variety in class. If you do not have a Study Bible, that also is fine. We have a lot of them to lend out; most of ours are New Revised Standard Version. 

Thanks for joining us. Enjoy!


Monday, January 26, 2015

epidermal urevap

Monday waking thoughts. Waking, eyes clenched shut against the clock's red glow. Warmly, comfortably, drowsily willing a drifting back to sleep in defiance of the ancient foe. Doze. Wake again realizing the Prince of Darkness grim is winning. The Creator should have consulted me in designing Ish: instead of a bladder, expanded application of the epidermis as evaporator. 

More waking thoughts: two people I envy. No, covet, breaking a commandment. One reads Mark in Greek. Other has a blue 1958 Bonneville in the garage, drives it from time to time. My Hebrew attempt failed, but if more determined I could do Mark. The Pontiac? Dream on.

Not tomorrow, but next Tuesday, 3 February opens the Spring Session of our midweek Bible Seminar. Ten o’clock sharp to eleven-fifteen, also sharp. All welcome. To register, email me Several already have done. 


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hoot of the FoxOwl

Cool. No, damright chilly 38F but 82% is comfortably dry for us. And zero precip is good for the Sunday when we are having breakfast and our annual parish meeting. No adult Sunday School today, pick it back up next Sunday, February 1st. 

Then on Tuesday, February 3rd start a new session of weekday Bible Seminar. More about that to come.

Linda and I are loving our new digs, me especially the small size and the view from my blue velvet chair at windowside. The chair is facing east, a table with lamp to my left as is natural for a righthanded person, and to my right is St. Andrews Bay. Directly across, on a clear day I can see, from this seventh floor, over Shell Island at a low and thin wide spot with no trees, into the shining Gulf of Mexico.

Also love being immersed in downtown St. Andrews instead of five or six blocks away, and seeing from the small bedroom not only the changing traffic lights at Beck Avenue and 11th and 15th but whatever is going on, and the marina and the mini-myriad of cafes or restaurants. The Shrimp Boat sits exactly on the spot where I used to play on the beach as a boy, where there were always jillions of fiddler crabs, and where in the mid-1940s our skiff was built by hand. Always loving Hunt’s and Captain’s Table, we’ve found two more favorites, Enzo’s Pizza and Chez Amavida, and there are more. Bit pricey, Thai Basil was excellent the two times we went there. We tried the newly reopened coffee house across the street and were more than slightly disappointed and won’t return, maybe for breakfast but never lunch again. 

This isn’t a theology, psychology, philosophy or food blog, just a rambling old man, but Chez Amavida is delightfully unique for around here, Seattle St. Andrews. We went back again for supper last evening and repeated dishes we’ve had there before, they were so good. But then the sign out from says “killer food,” and they’ve got that right. With free wifi, it’s like a college hangout coffee shop for 21st C hippies, always young people there doing homework, reading, MacBooks open. Last evening two guys playing chess at the next table; and a guy with guitar, amp/speaker and decent singing voice. I would have sworn I was in a Seattle Coffeehouse. 

Also. At last the truth can be told. My friend Mike emailed me from Atlanta about that owl that, last Wednesday morning (Massalina Bayou) Robert and I spotted way up high on the dock post in Massalina Bayou, saying owls only come out at night.
 I rode by yesterday afternoon on my way to the church to officiate a wedding, and sure enough the owl is still standing there. It’s fake, a faux owl, apparently keeping watch over the bayou by night and day. What a hoot.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

dreamless sleep

Sound of waves lapping the shore below. Looks to be grim weather. StABay looking southwest from my porch just now.

I’m no photographer, but the views from here are so captivating that the iPhone camera stays busy. Grainy, but I’m not interested in moving up from bad to good, much less better, best. The pics are for me in the moment.

Considering whether to add Saturday to my morning exercise “regimen” that’s no regimen at all but Monday - Friday hour sometimes half-hour, not to be beautiful but to maybe extend +Time. Article online this morning says for best effects exercise before breakfast, so I’m sitting here typing and starving while deciding whether to cook an omelet or go downstairs to the gym room. The important thing will not be the decision but how I feel later about what I actually did. My history and being is the omelet. But I wasn’t a heart patient looking at 80 then either.

Officiating a wedding this afternoon. My sister’s birthday today. Fourth anniversary of that morning in Cleveland. It’s in my personal time capsule. Rise early, shower head to toe with foul soap that I was warned not to get in eyes or mouth, bundle up, meet friends and loved ones in the lobby, go outside into bitter cold Ohio winter dawn, board bus trolley for ride to the heart institute, wait in waiting room with friends and loved ones for a few minutes until name is called. Hugs and get in a wheel chair. Roll to the prep room. Take off everything but your birthday suit orders the aide. Shall I keep my birthday suit on? I reply for a little Monday morning humor but the grim-faced aide cracks no smile, just repeats the order. Take off everything but your birthday suit. Covers me up with a warm blanket. Do you want to see a minister before you go for surgery? asks the voice of doom. No thank you, I say, my priest is here. Aren’t you from Florida? Yes. You’re here from Florida and your priest is here with you? Yes. He comes in for prayer, anoints my forehead with oil, sign of the cross. Final family hug as gurney with me aboard swings round and heads out through double doors like a battleship leaving port for the war zone. Ties up to a pier for nearly an hour as I watch enormous machinery wheeled into my OR and my Team assemble. Clutching my bottle of nitrostat, I’m planning my dreams. The main one will be riding the Jamestown Ferry, in my sailor uniform, from downtown Newport across Narragansett Bay to where that green Dodge sedan is waiting on the pier. 

No dreams came. I woke up thinking I was drowning, struggling to breath as a tube was pulled up my throat. Eyes open. Loved ones beaming down at me. “I’m alive!” I exclaim as +Time begins ticking.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Shark-infested waters

Heavy rainstorm on top of us. Lightning and thunder coming up from the Gulf, our first thunderstorm here. In the charming village design, a metal roof peak is next to us, and we can hear rain hitting the roof. 

Excellent sleep last evening: to bed at 9:00, up momentarily at 1:23 and back to sleep until five o’clock. Eight hours. Something good is happening, why? IDK but I like it.

Diecast Models email this morning. Even though it always says "dear valued customer" I scan, drool, and delete. Months ago they offered several Chevys from the twenties and thirties and I was tempted but did not sin. Because with this move I have four boxes of old cars, some I’ve had since the forties. Going from thirteen rooms to three there’s not space, but I cannot decide what to do with them. Same with boxes of old car brochures collected through my teen and college years. Joe gave me an old car trunk, one of those you see on pictures of old Model Ts and Buicks and Packards, but I’m not sure I want to fill it back up with my car books. 

Heavy rain and promises to go on and on, so instead of going out to Chuck's shop this morning I’ll go down to the exercise room as yesterday. As I said, all the same equipment except no hand-crank machine. There's even the same stationary bike with the seat that doesn't grind into the prostate. Well, look, what the hell, we're irradiated old men here, get over it.

If this takes on the feeling of some old codger’s diary, remember: it’s a personal blog, not a theological treatise. It’s open to public, but not my fault who bothers to read.

Yesterday afternoon Linda went to Publix to get the ingredients for Sunday morning’s breakfast casserole at church. Sitting out on the porch, I suddenly heard a huge splash from below, jumped up to look, and saw the circle from the splash. A shark between four and five feet long, I don’t think it was six feet, was directly below me within ten feet of the shore, chasing its supper. It must have just enjoyed a duck, would be my guess, but it kept zipping around to and fro chasing smaller fish in the seaweed. I watched it quite a while until Linda arrived home and asked, what are you looking at? I pointed and she saw it immediately. Classic, it was in shallow enough water that its shark fin was always cutting the surface. We watched it chasing a feast until in due course it disappeared round the curve to our right. 

Porpoises et cetera in Massalina Bayou on Wednesday. Thursday a shark in the Bay. +Time is good. I’m happy to be here enjoying it with Linda and ignoring those old men who read the obits looking hopefully for my pic every morning. Nyaa nyaaa nyaaanh.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

This Day

Watching TV is not my thing, news and weather I get online. I don’t do Facebook online though except once daily to post a link to my blog post, and generally not otherwise unless Ray Wishart’s photography catches my eye and I start scrolling down to marvel at his imagination and artistic genius. I like to read but have a psychological problem finishing a book that I like because if I’m enjoying it I don’t want it to end, which I’ve confessed here before. It took me weeks to read “Life Itself: A Memoir” because each essay was so fascinating, and moving, and several I found my own life in and had to keep going back to live in the memories. 

But when I want to entertain myself without doing something useful I may pick up my iPad and play my game, which is Spider Solitaire. I reckon it’s “spider” because of the web you can tangle yourself up in, but they could have come up with a better name for it. Fifteen or so years ago I taught my mother how to use a computer, then we bought her one and when she wasn’t browsing eBay and bidding on stuff she’d play solitaire, found spider solitaire and showed it to me, that's how I got into it. There are lots of good games but spider is one that relaxes me and takes my mind off of whatever may be bothering me. I played it this morning for a wasted hour, for example. 

Thursday is my day off from the exercise program, but the exercise room on the first floor is free to use so I’ll go down later. They have all the equipment that Chuck has at the BayMed cardiopulmonary center, and the view here is out on the Bay. Well, they have all the equipment except that goofy hand-cranking machine that was made in Sweden or someplace. It isn’t really goofy though: I’m crediting it with greatly diminishing the arthritis and its sharp pain that had taken up residence in the ring finger of my left hand and was causing the finger to lock and my mouth to exclaim foully, not attractive for a priest but then I’m first a sailor and only later well down the line a holy man. So every Tuesday and Friday at Chuck’s I make sure to get in five or six minutes on the crank. The gym downstairs just off the garage doesn’t have one of those.

For entertainment in the blogging arena, sometimes I like to fiddle around and change my font from Helvetica without making it obnoxious and distracting. This font, which may or may not “take” on the blog, is Tahoma. Without an eye for these things, the only difference I notice at the moment is the serif on the capital I. 

Wednesday evening at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church is the best time of the week. A really good strange song or two, sort of freewill liturgy, a young person reading the gospel or other Bible lesson, then a dialogue about it, a bunch of kids coming up around the Altar for the Eucharistic Prayer and four of them serving the Bread and Wine, then a delicious meal after, visiting with folks we enjoy but otherwise only see on Sunday mornings. It’s a great evening and in my opinion and experience the best thing we do for ourselves as a church. We have lots of outreach, do many things for others, but this is something we do for ourselves and no joke, it’s the best. Loving ourselves as we love our neighbor.

So where this was going as I wandered off is that last evening after church, the weather was so nice that I was sitting outside on the porch. Total darkness. All of a sudden there’s wave action washing ashore below. I look for a ship passing but see nothing and heard nothing. The waves calm down and the Bay goes silent. A few minutes later it starts all over again. Loud waves washing ashore for a couple minutes or so, then fades to silence. Looking again: still no ship in sight. What happened evidently is that a ship passed silently close by in the near channel right off my balcony on her way out to sea, and when I looked the first time I neglected to look down to the left (east) and see her turn into the far channel; then she sailed the far channel and out the Pass into the Gulf and was gone before the second round of waves came ashore here. 

A few of the ships passing close by here are quite noisy, but most pass silently. Out of the Navy and sea duty for more than a third of a century, I’ll have to do a little research to see what kinds of propulsion systems are being used in merchant ships these days. 

Of these days, the start of this day:


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Massalina Bayou

Home by Another Way

Once before I may have written two blog posts the same day, now this morning. We started our walk a minute or so before seven and finished a few minutes after eight, so for two octogenarians that was fair, I give us a C+. Starting on Linda Avenue behind Cove School as always, we decided to do it backwards, so walked north to 2nd Court, west to E. Beach Drive, across Tarpon Dock Bridge and past the building that used to be Alvin Cook’s fish house. Alvin was in business the same time as my father back in the nineteen forties and early fifties. In 1948 he and my father bought new Dodge sedans about the same time, ours green theirs Burgundy, and one Sunday morning that spring or early summer we all drove over to Mobile together in the two new cars to see Bellingrath Gardens. Arriving in time for church, we went to the eleven o’clock service at Christ Episcopal in Mobile. Alvin and Gracie Cook were Baptist and didn’t stand or kneel as we did, but sat through the whole church service. For cars, a couple years later my father bought the brown Plymouth woody wagon that we enjoyed all the way through high school and into college. Alvin splurged and bought a new black Packard sedan that he wouldn't let his sons drive.

We walked past what was Hawk’s Nest restaurant, up to Bay County Courthouse. To catch our breath, sat on the courthouse steps for a couple minutes, a nice view out over Massalina Bayou. Robert took out his iPhone to look up Hawk Massalina (1840-1948), who died at age 108. I remember his death and remember him as a local celebrity and historic personality. In the minute or two we sat there Massalina Bayou filled sudden and complete with white fog. First time I ever saw that happen so instantly. Walking on across 4th Street Bridge, we saw porpoises rolling in the bayou. Very picturesque, ducks floating on the surface and the dolphins rolling, one was quite little. Flat surface and the fog. As we walked on around the bayou toward the green house where Robert grew up we stopped to watch the porpoises rolling, and noticed an owl sitting atop a post.

I tried to snap a picture of it but it’s not clear. The owl is on the tall post to the right of the sailboat. To the left was a large brown pelican taking a rest or maybe digesting his mullet.

Dolphins rolling, pelicans and ducks floating, the owl there on the post and the large pelican on a nearby post. In Massalina Bayou with all the boats. In our growing up years about the only boats seen in the bayou were the South Wind, and Joe Knowles’ father’s boat across on the other side, but now the bayou is jammed up junky with boats of various sizes. Still sacred ground to two ancients.

We walked on around, right where Hamilton Avenue runs into Massalina Drive, past the house my parents built in 1937 and where I grew up, up the slope to Linda Avenue and back to our vehicles. One of our best walks ever.


Return of the Whigs

Deflategate, here we go again with the Patriots, more interesting than the nodding, bobbing, shaking heads who necropsy the State of the Union address. Better three or four political parties than two polarized in principle as their single platform. Don’t bring back the Dixiecrats, but something. Tea Party and the Socialists, except words are so charged. The Tories. Or, hey, the Patriots. 

Red, Blue and -- what? Not Purple these days. Not Pink. Not Yellow. Not Black. White, nah. Green maybe. Nope, too Catholic, so not Orange either.  

Imagine that: I don’t have to think about CFB again for six months. B1G may top SEC, but Ohio State is not the new Crimson Tide. Go, Seahawks. Who will win Super Bowl 2015? Probably Pepsi. Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and Toyota. GM, Ford or Chrysler? Why would an auto floormat manufacturer advertise in the SuperBowl?

Time to walk. Up too early, way too early, read sports news but studiously avoided political garbage, wrote an incredibly stupid blog post, closed the laptop, went back to bed and slept soundly for over an hour. Now time to walk. Honestly, I don’t do it, or go downstairs to the exercise room, unless accountable to somebody, who would have thought seventy years ago that I would be accountable to that kid sitting across from me in Mrs. Ridgell’s 2nd grade classroom, the tall athletic boy standing in front of me in our 8th grade picture, who lives in the green house across Massalina Bayou. Except that Robert will reliably be there behind Cove School in 25 minutes, I’d turn over and go back to sleep for another hour, but here I go to walk an hour instead.

Nice day here.

Rule 2. The Ball. Each team provides the other team's twelve balls. The bellboy hands the ball to the Nose Guard, who squeezes it, smiles and winks at the Center, and passes it over to him. That's my solution.

W+ in +Time

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


 Epiphany, a season, for those who went to Sunday School as children, of good old Sunday School Bible stories. Specifically, “call stories,” God’s call on the lives of his people, calling them into his service. Last week it was Samuel, who did not know the Lord, as he lay down to go to sleep under the sanctuary lamp, which was still lit to signify the presence of God (as our sanctuary lamp at the aumbry, when lit, signifies the presence of Christ in the consecrated Sacrament), “Jahweh, we know you are here.” And then in John’s gospel, Jesus called Philip and they call Nathanael. That was last Sunday.

The call stories continue this coming Sunday as we read from the story of Jonah. Called of God, as the expression goes, and finally being taught his lesson and surrendering to the divine will, Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches a message of doom: God is about to destroy the wicked city. The residents hear and believe, repent in sackcloth and ashes, and God is satisfied.

From ancient Nineveh we make our way forward several centuries to the New Testament Age and the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus calls the brothers Simon and Andrew, “I will make you fishers of men.” Going a little farther down the shore he calls two more brothers, James and John, whom one translation names Ya‘akov Ben-Zavdai and Yochanan. Fishermen all four, they drop everything and walk away from family and livelihood to follow Jesus. Pretty risky.

From these call stories, I suppose we are meant to realize that God has a call on our own lives, at least that possibility is usually made a focus of preaching, and to stop, look and listen for God’s train whistle. Might that be the same train that filled the Temple in the prophet’s call story at Isaiah chapter 6? If it was a coal-fired steam locomotive, that could explain all the smoke. 

Although I won’t wander off into my own memories of train travel on hot summer days before air conditioning, of open coach windows that let in smoke and cinders, I have my own call story. Part of which, at the risk of being what St. Paul calls a fool for Christ, I have told any number of times in various gatherings -- including in our adult Sunday School class last Sunday morning as bait or a decoy to encourage others to tell their own stories if they wanted to; and folks did share. Coming up is not my Sunday in the pulpit, otherwise I might tell, again, a more personal part of my call story, the chapter that always leaves my hearers glancing sideways at each other and looking around for the exit just in case; but even that chapter still leaves untold the most personal chapters that are even more embarrassing and ridiculous.

Oh well. No Sunday School this coming Sunday, as we are having our Annual Parish Meeting with Breakfast. 


Old fashioned railroad crossing sign of my youth pinched online. No offense.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Annual holiday today, MLK birthday and I remember when he was assassinated. Stationed in Washington, DC and living in a rented house on Wakefield Chapel Road just off Route 236 outside the Beltway, we had bought a small travel trailer and were at a campsite up in the BlueRidge. I can’t visualize that we would have had a TV up there, so must have been following the news on radio. Would it have been Walter Cronkite? I don’t remember. 

My duty station was in the Navy Annex looking east over at the Pentagon and north across the Potomac to the District, and what I do remember in following days is a skyline of flames as enraged mobs torched parts of the city, and heavy smoke both rising into the sky and hovering over the city. It doesn’t “all come back to me now,” what it does is remind me of my Navy days from start to finish, mainly as always destroyer duty which was the best part of my twenty years, and the two shore duty tours in Washington, nearly ten years apart and leaving me with totally different memories. 

Seems to me Dr. King was the same age as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, both of them 39 when murdered, I was thinking of Bonhoeffer yesterday as we read Call Stories in the Bible. Students all over America will be reading transcripts or listening to recordings of MLK's “I have a dream” speech on the Mall in Washington, I remember listening to it in class with my middle school students at Holy Nativity Episcopal School eight or ten years ago. The mind wanders, and one of many memories is Resurrection City, the enormous tent city that went up on the Mall by the old Main Navy Building, that was during our first tour in Washington. The second tour is more or less a blur, mostly less.

Earlier this morning I was clearing my desktop of seldom used icons. Came across and read again a destroyer story by a retired Navy captain whose destroyer experience was different from but contemporary with my own, and bringing all that back.  His was west coast, mine east coast. What pops into mind at the moment is my first day at sea in a Navy destroyer. It was in 1958 for sea trials after the ship finished overhaul at Portsmouth (VA) Naval Shipyard. How the pier moved back and forth as I walked down it dizzily at the end of the day and marvelled that now I had my sea legs I had lost my land legs. Stepping on a heavy cable as I made my way off the pier, because the old Chief Petty Officer who had taught our engineering class at OCS had told us always to step on a cable, never over a cable because if the cable suddenly goes taut it’s better to be thrown thirty feet into the air than to be cut in two. 

My Navy experience anymore is watching that small craft making its morning way from the Navy base across the Bay out the channel in front of me and through the pass for a busy day at sea, then back into port late afternoon. Green going out to play. Red Right Returning.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Moving Day

As we continue our wonderful retirement adventure of moving from an enormous house to tiny new accommodation, I’m thinking of my mother telling about moving day at their house when she was a little girl a hundred years ago. It was the nineteen-teens, maybe even 1915. Mama had been born north of Pensacola just up the road a piece, south of Century, in a rural area called Bluff Springs. It's hardly even on the map. Mama was the second of eventually five children. My sister is the family genealogist and would know when, but at some point they moved into Pensacola, where mama's father Walter Henry Gentry was in business with his brothers Lee and Elbert, Gentry Bros, Loans and Pawns. I don’t remember Uncle Lee; but I do remember Uncle Eb, who died in the 1940s when I was twelve or fourteen. In fact, I found Uncle Eb's grave in St. John Cemetery as I drove through Pensacola on my way to one of my spiritual retreats the summer of 2013.

Moving from Bluff Springs to Pensacola, the Gentry family rented a house in East Hill, on E. Strong Street. Mama said that after they'd lived there a while, the house directly across the street at 1317 came for sale, and my grandfather bought it. From what she told me, apparently moving day was one single day. Mama remembered a circus of relatives and neighbors rushing out of the old house carrying furniture and clothes across the street to the new house. It was done in short order.

Some years after Linda and I were married, my grandparents bought a new house at the corner of Ash and 9th Street. But my most wonderful memories are of the house and family and neighborhood on E. Strong Street. My fascination that, unlike us in Panama City, they had a paved sidewalk, and it went all the way round the block. I learned to skate and ride a bike there. I loved my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents there. I may have learned to love cars there, my grandfather being a Chrysler man (as Ralphie’s father was an Oldsmobile man) who had two cars, one for himself and one for my grandmother, and every year traded in the older one for a brand new one. I learned to love fried chicken and corn pudding there. Rice and gravy, thick, salty brown gravy, quail and dove panfried in thick brown gravy. Sour cream pound cake. With my cousin Bill, sneaking out a Chrysler to drive it at high speed through East Hill streets on nights our grandparents went out to play cards with friends for the evening. It was, to me, the place of being loved. It’s just a block off Cervantes, and when in Pensacola, I almost always drive by and remember. A place of having been dearly loved. 

Our move here is very different. Though also moving “just down the street” and just as loved, we have been sorting through generations of things in a century-old house. Deciding, tossing, deciding, selling, deciding, keeping, boxing, moving. It’s been weeks, months, and still isn’t done. The Gentry family did it in one day. 


Saturday, January 17, 2015

from my secret faults

In her late years my aunt Evalyn (with an “a” not an “e”), my father’s oldest sister, took an Alaska cruise. After, she told me enthusiastically that rising early morning to view high snowy mountains at near distance across the sea, she had been moved to say the Venite. Traditional and sung to beloved Anglican Chant, it had been our opening canticle for Morning Prayer all our years of life, our praise song expressing our love and awe of God.

One of my morning devotionals these recent years has been and continues RSF&PTL, but generally just a word or three of praise both as anamnesis and to center on who and what I am and have been. Having taken up predawn residence at this Bay window, though, I am moved every morning in the pitch darkness with the magnificence of what I see. This morning, the crescent moon, which in the time sitting here I’ve seen rise from hanging over downtown Panama City to a third of its way to its meridian. And the sparkling jewel of St. Andrews Bay beneath. So I’m thinking, for early morning focus, to refresh some of the psalms my mother had me memorize as a child. Even though the harbor lights are man’s handiwork (yes, man’s, this is my blog), notably the green light that I will always share with Jimmy Gatz as his beloved Daisy just across the water but finally beyond reach even in death. 

A canticle, or maybe Psalm 19 from the Coverdale Psalter. 

THE heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handy-work.
    One day telleth another; and one night certifieth another.
    There is neither speech nor language; but their voices are heard among them.
    Their sound is gone out into all lands; and their words into the ends of the world.
    In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun; which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a giant to run his course.
    It goeth forth from the uttermost part of the heaven, and runneth about unto the end of it again; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
    The law of the LORD is an undefiled law, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, and giveth wisdom unto the simple.
    The statutes of the LORD are right, and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, and giveth light unto the eyes.
    The fear of the LORD is clean, and endureth for ever; the judgments of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
    More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb.
    Moreover, by them is thy servant taught; and in keeping of them there is great reward.
    Who can tell how oft he offendeth? O cleanse thou me from my secret faults.
    Keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins, lest they get the dominion over me; so shall I be undefiled, and innocent from the great offence.
    Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be alway acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Halfway to zenith now.


Friday, January 16, 2015

G&G. R&R

Okay, I can’t help it: I love this car. Not only is it a Buick, it’s long, it’s low, it’s lithe. It’s a sedan. It’s rear wheel drive, it needs only to say Buick Eight on front, and that long hood could even take a modern old-fashioned, silky smooth Fireball straight eight engine. Dream on, codger. Avenir: Roadmaster Redivivus. 

So what else is new, Harry Golden?

Executions in Oklahoma and Florida. We tend to overlook that it wasn’t the victims who were executed: the victims lives were taken from them years and years ago, in most cases, horribly. But then I am not as civilized as I might be. 

Horror of the New Age of terrorists killing people in the name of God. Outrage of people offending others in the name of Free Speech. Civilization upside down and collapsing on itself. Never mind the First Commandment, the Second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself is precisely how the First Commandment is obeyed or not at all. But we do not love, we only care about Self and Certainty manifested by this one and that one as Rights and Religion, ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω, God help us. Hatred rules: diametrical polarity. Kyrie eleison.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby. 

Friday: cardio day. Does it help me? It’s like all these pills I take: I can’t tell a thing, I just feel normal. Linda says well, that’s the idea: normal and alive. So, yes. Gulp and Go.

Francis in the Philippines. Elected to lead a Church that over centuries has hardened solid and stolid in its certitude. Trying to open windows long nailed shut. Viva.

What next? IDK, and neither do you.

When Better Automobiles Are Built, Buick Will Build Them.

... a land that I heard of once in a lullaby ...
 and dreams really do come true --


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dirt roads with deep ruts

When you get to this age it is reasonable to be certain of nothing, but it seems to me that when I was a boy there were people living in the Cove Hotel. Not just regular guests, but resident, a few people who lived there all the time. Thinking of them, the idea always intrigued me, of having simple living space in a beautiful location, a room with bathroom, a lovely view -- the Cove Hotel looked out on the lawn and the Bay -- and no kitchen, so going to the hotel dining room for all meals. 

The Cove Hotel is long gone, but there is a row of townhouses there now, Bay Oaks, back from Cherry Street, hidden privately behind trees and greenery, fronting on the Bay. When we were looking, remembering the old Cove Hotel days, I thought for a moment that Bay Oaks might be the ideal location for us. But there were none listed at the time, and no community pool for the granddaughters, and the units are two story, which we decided to avoid once and for all. And though tucked away and charming, the privacy would not have been as total as the high-rise style we decided and settled on in easy stroll of half a dozen little cafes and looking out not only over my beloved Bay on one side, but over the business district where I grew up. So, we have Bayside and Beckside. 

The only thing missing is the iceplant where Captain’s Table parking lot is now, and Pop’s fishhouse in the spot where the Shrimp Boat Restaurant is today. And Windham's Fish Market -- until she died a few years ago, old Mrs. Windham used to sit in a rockingchair just inside the door of Captain's Table and greet people. Mama would speak to her by first name. 

Oh, and all dirt roads except for Beck Avenue. As late as the early 1950s, my Bay High days, 11th Street was a dirt road with deep ruts where you could get your car stuck if you weren’t careful. Even 15th Street was only two sets of ruts, with so little traffic the ruts were through grass and weeds, not even dirt. And 12th Street, where our fishhouse was, wasn't even dirt, it was mostly white sand. 

It all strikes up memories of course, always including the summer afternoon, must have been the summer after my graduation, 1953, that I was driving Gina and Walt to summer band practice, running late and Mr. Whitley did not cotton to anybody coming in late, doing fifty miles an hour headed east on 11th Street, raising a cloud of dust behind, and got stopped by the constable who had been parked on Balboa Avenue, his usual spot to park and lurk. As I sped past the Balboa intersection I saw his car sitting there to my right and knew what to expect. Sure enough, round the corner he zipped, light flashing and siren. Walking up to my car window, he asked, “How fast were you going?” “About fifty," I replied, "I was trying to get them to band practice on time.” He said okay, slow down, go ahead. Brown 1949 Plymouth woody wagon that has so many other memories. Mama was secretary at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church at the time.

It’s very early Thursday morning, and I’m grateful for life and breath and health, and for idyllic surroundings that have been home to me from earliest memories, and for those around me who love me.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What's for breakfast?

What’s for blogpost?

“Retired Episcopal priest writing and ruminating and musing lightly for self and friends as a therapy for recuperation after successful open heart surgery at Cleveland Clinic on Monday, January 24, 2011” reads the Profile on my web log where I post some sort of nonsense every morning come hell or high water. Not counting this morning’s post, and I suppose not counting the one post I deleted for some reason I can’t remember but probably it was some wild-hair political rant that I was ashamed of the next day, there have been 1,473 posts. Who reads this nonsense? I certainly do not.

Although if on later reflection something strikes me as having been incomplete, or as having missed an opportunity for theological reflection in some way, I may go back and change it, amend it. In fact, I did that this week with my post that took off on Anu Garg’s quotation from Haruki Murakami’s thought about our memories being the fuel we burn to stay alive, went back and fiddled with it until I realized “what the hell, Bozo, it’s over and done, give it up.” 

But the notion of memories being the fuel we burn to stay alive seems uniquely human, and also with you, anamnesis, a reflection of what Holy Communion, the Eucharist, is to us catholic Christians, we do not forget. In writing, I missed that, later went back and edited. Retroactive editing usually does to writing what American car makers used to do with their annual automobile models: the car would start out simply beautiful (for tastes and styles of the day), then every fall for the next several years they would change the trim around and add chrome here and there until finally they had a total grotesquerie.
 And if you think that one's ugly, you should see the tri-colored pink one.

Once, years ago, I read someone’s advice never to print one’s sermons, with the added caveat that if one insisted on printing them anyway, to make darn sure the print copy said what one meant to say or should have said as opposed to what one actually uttered. I used to print every sermon I preached, following that editing dictum, until about a year or two ago, when I quit printing them, and even started tossing in the trash my pulpit manuscript soon as I arrived home from church Sunday morning and poured my glass of dry red to sip while waiting for Sunday dinner. So what did I say? damned if I know, nor will I be held accountable for it. But what I posted on my +Time blog is there for all the world to see at will. I should be more careful: much of it is personal, sometimes the surface of deep emotions and/or memories, and none of your business. Once in a while someone reads between my lines or “takes my temperature” from them, an expression I like that hits the nail on the head.

So, what’s for blogpost the morning, then? Maybe something utterly simplistic. A friend was complaining again to Linda about the stupidity of the people who live in her apartment complex: they’re asking why the French are calling Jesus Charlie. No, the friend explained, it’s not English, it’s French. It has nothing to do with Jesus, it’s French, “je suis Charlie” means “I am Charlie,” that’s all. Okay, I understand, they said, but it makes me really angry that they're calling Jesus “Charlie.” 

Holy ess-word. 

Today is Wednesday. Monday I walked with Robert and wore myself out. Yesterday, Tuesday, I did fifty-five minutes of strenuous at Chuck’s cardio shop: treadmill, elliptical, that hand-crank gadget, and the weight machine. This morning is walk with Robert again, followed by our weekly treat of breakfast out, which we have not had breakfast out for weeks, maybe even since November: what will I have? eggs over medium, wheat toast unbuttered so it will soak up the egg yolk, black coffee, glass of ice water. Maybe a bite of pork, but never bacon. Tomorrow will be Thursday: my exercise sabbath unless I decide to go downstairs to the workout room. Friday back to Chuck’s. Is it doing me any good? damned if I know. I’d really rather sit here and look at my Bay. There's a low cloud miles off to the southeast that's seems to be lighted up by Mexico Beach.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's just me

Honestly, for many reasons, I don’t know whether to share this memory or take it to my grave. Twenty-two years ago about this very moment, as Linda and I were driving home from Gulf Coast Medical Center, it hit me with “Oh my God, ...” -- an overwhelmingly intense, even obsessive emotion of love, bonding with a child, and realizing what had just happened to me. Kristen had just been born to our daughter Malinda. 

A few weeks before the birth, we had been told the baby is a girl, and a protective and possessive feeling had set in on me. The baby’s mother and her husband the baby’s father had been divorced some six months earlier, and the child’s father was gone -- in South Florida, actually, working on reconstruction after Hurricane Andrew. A few minutes after the birth, our niece Joy came and got us in the waiting room and led us into the -- I guess it was the birthing room, where Malinda was lying in the bed holding the baby. Joy picked her up and asked, “Does anybody want to hold her?” 

"Does anybody want to hold her?" This had never happened to me before. With my own three children, the medics had kept me strictly at arms length until a couple days later when they had wheeled mother and infant to the car and sent us home. Now, for the first time ever, I was asked if I wanted to hold a newborn baby. Without thinking I replied to Joy, “Yes, me, I do,” and to Linda, “Get away, woman, you can hold her later.” I washed, donned the gown, sat down in a chair, and Joy put her in my arms, this tiny new being, swaddled in a white wrap. I held her a good thirty minutes or longer, and whispering to her, “Papa loves you. You’re Papa’s girl.” When Joy finally took her from me, I think Linda probably held her that predawn while we were in the birthing room, but I don’t remember. 

On the way home a few minutes later, it hit: the realization what bond means. It was a new term to me that I had first heard on television a few weeks before, in a program about newborn animals imprinting on the first living thing they see after birth, usually the mother. I had bonded with each of my three children without knowing the word, and in the drive home along 19th Street it hit me what the overwhelming feeling actually is that I had last felt twenty years earlier when Tass was born.

The next morning we returned to the hospital, taking Ray, who was five, to see his mother and new baby sister. I recall three things about that morning's visit. First, under hospital procedures that were new to me, two people, and two only, were allowed to have an ID bracelet permitting them to enter the nursery and take their baby out. As mother, Malinda had one. I had the other, and used it. A second thing is that in Malinda’s hospital room that next morning, as I held the baby for the second time, I said aloud, “Hello, Papa’s girl” to which Ray corrected me, “Papa, she’s not yours, she’s ours,” and I thought, “We’ll see about that.”

The other thing is that again I held her quite a long time. Finally, Malinda said, “I'll take her back when you get tired of holding her,” and I said, “Let me tell you something: that’s not going to happen.”

A generation has happened since that day, that morning, but that’s as far as I’m going. This is my most private and personal story. I don’t know whether to tell it or delete, I honestly don't. 

Today is Kristen’s birthday. She’s twenty-two, just about this very moment. I legally adopted her when she was little. Yesterday after the four of us had a spectacular lunch at Chez Amavida, she left at exactly 1:58 PM to drive back to college after Christmas vacation. Last evening at 7:08 I received her text, “I’m here” as she arrived to start the second semester of her senior year.