Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve

73F and 96%, I love this winter weather except we’ve had rain every day of Joe’s visit and he leaves tomorrow morning, which on yesterday’s line of thought stirs the unhappy side of my brain. Maybe I can change that by thinking about cars. Anyway, my chair’s right against the 7H window currently being spattered by rain, air conditioning isn’t running at the moment, but is keeping the apartment dry and cool, ceiling fan is turning a slight breeze, my right foot is cold because I took one step out onto the porch and got the sock wet, and so the sense of being cold because it's winter even though it certainly is not, has a blanket draped over my shoulder. Truth, it’s a long stole that a friend knitted for me that I’ve worn now and then in Lent, but it feels good around my neck this final morning of the year in which I turned eighty. 

What happened to those last forty years, where did time go. In fact, forty years biblically means a long time, so I’ve lived twice a long time, two long times. When you get here you’ll see that from inside looking out, everything looks the same at eighty as it did when you were seventeen and it was a very good year, twenty-seven, thirty-seven, except that your friends and relatives have grown old and half of them are dead.

Do I have a target life span? Yes, but not telling.

Second cup of hot being sipped, and everywhere I sit there’s a small stash of dark chocolate, with forest mint by this chair, rationed square melting nicely on the tongue. 

Sabbath, I’m trying to teach myself about sabbath time, high time, eh, so this week I’ve been trying to do as little as possible, and the rain is helping. Also, condo-living instead of a house is a tremendous help, no weeds to pull or roof to check. Yesterday I watched a lecture about C.S. Lewis, lecture five, today I may watch another, lecture six in an online series. Noon I’m hosting four generations, if they come, to lunch at one of our St. Andrews cafes, I think Captain’s Table because none of the others serve mullet. When I was a boy, mullet - - nevermind, never gardenia mind.

Notwithstanding my short horizon, I’d rather be a boy in the 1930s through the 1940s and into the 1950s than plowing into the twenty-first century any day. In fact, if I were starting over and choosing, I’d be Alfred born in 1899 but skip that final voyage of the Annie & Jennie and never have left St. Andrews Bay.

Yesterday in the waste of time that was my sabbath Wednesday so no waste at all, I found an extensive website on Cadillac with infinite details year by year from 1903 on for a hundred years. Last night I dozed off reading (do you know the wheelbase of the 1903 Cadillac Model A?).

Picked up again for an hour or two this morning. The 1903 Cadillac had a one-cylinder horizontal engine, under the driver’s seat, and a curved-dash front end. I already knew all this, though didn’t realize it was set horizontally, but of course it was, it had to be. There were two models, the one seater below

and that touring car with front and back seats. Price about $850 base, $950 for the touring. For 1904 they continued the Model A 

and added the Model B, which looks to me like they didn’t change the car much except to attach to the front a box with the engine in it. 

Base prices about the same, but extra for lights, windshield, top with side curtains.   

For a while Cadillac offered the advantage of a rear exit so the car could be backed up to the curb and riders exit without stepping into the muddy road. 

When I got up this morning, I was thinking to write about the Collect and Bible readings for the upcoming Sunday, but wobbled off down this road. WTH, it’s my sabbath and I can do whatever I DWP.

At the moment, my favorite old car interests are Buick, Cadillac close second, and Chevrolet. Though yesterday I came across a great treasure of Ford brochures from 1927 through 1936. My friend and fellow KA pledge Brad at UFla brought a 1939 Mercury convertible to school and had it there from our freshmen through senior years. Brad dropped out after the first semester senior year; but he used to talk wistfully of the ’36 Ford he had in high school, much better than the Merc and wished he'd never traded. 

Remembering that, and looking at the pictures, I remembered that the family of Bill Guy who lived next door to us when we were growing up, had a tan 1936 Ford sedan

before they bought the new maroon ’40 Ford Deluxe tudor (upper left below): 

which they had until after WW2 when Mr. Danley gave Mr. Guy a new 1946 Ford fordor sedan and the Forty Ford vanished. 

For your day of salvation, remember that the 1940 Ford Standard looked more like the 1939 Ford. Notice the difference:

Danley Furniture headquarters was in Opp, Alabama and Bill Guy (Sr.) managed Danley Furniture on Harrison Avenue all my growing up years. Mr. Guy was Mr. Danley’s favorite, they went to Chicago every year to the furniture market. June 1957 when Linda and i married, Mr. Guy gave us a four place setting set of Melmac in four colors, which we enjoyed using many years. Now and then when I go out to see Bill and Norman, I stop by the Guy place for a visit. Mr. (W.A.) Guy, Mary B. Guy, who died in 1949 at age 39 and I remember that evening well, and Bill (W.B.), who was a year younger than I am. With Bill, Jr. (though he wasn’t Jr., he was WB not WA) comes the story of the red 1949 Ford convertible that had been his mother’s car. I’ll tell that yet one more time again, another day. 

See what happens? This is not my fault.

Sock has dried, so the right foot is no longer cold.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sixth Day

Six geese a-laying

Christmas Day the first, this is the sixth day of Christmas. Some may’ve jumped the gun to sing Christmas carols on Thanksgiving, too impatient to relish the anticipation that Advent offers, and tiring of it all by now; but this is Christmas. For light this early, now 3:46, Christmas tree lights are on and one may light up face and mood by thinking of a Ford station wagon arriving, or a Volvo. 

Mood manipulation is easy, isn’t it: there was a place to stand as those cars drove away, pressing the melancholy button to the floor. All it takes is calling to mind. Choose: sadness or happy, and which is stronger?

Messing with the mind by juggling memories and watching oneself.

Sitting at a picnic table on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, just north of Harrisburg, watching a groundhog watch me watching him watch me. August 1990.

Still dark out, fog coming and going evidenced as lights across the Bay shine bright, fade, dim, now invisible. Direct offshore is a bright flashing red, a few yards distant: when it vanishes I’ll know we’re whited in; but not yet, I can still see not only the red light itself, but its reflection in the Bay surface. The reflection will die before the light itself. 

And now the reflection is gone, just the light is there, and a bit hazy.

There’s a new cat at Tassy’s house, he’s orange, I love orange cats.
Yellow roses and orange cats. Human, we’d say redhead, ginger, but an orange cat. A kitten, four weeks maybe, or six. Name of Pudd’n but in Panama City his Christian name is Rosenkrantz. He’s a baby, orange tabby.

The red light is totally gone now, and I’m still wondering which mood is stronger, up or down. As well as by igniter, I’m thinking it varies by individual, and with me I think melancholy may be the bully, some thoughts, memories pulling me farther down than their obverse pull me up. What might I wish about myself? Perhaps not to have been so shy.

Nothing but dark out there at the moment, pitch black darkness, all lights blanketed by the fog’s whiteness. 

Going for a second cuppa now, and a chocolate, all the while deliberately messing with my mind to see if a particular memory takes me up, or down. More likely, the memory may be obliterated by the taste of the chocolate. If chocolate is Christmas, salivating is Advent. 

Happiness: a Christmas tree or an orange kitty?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Sense of closeness, gazing out the window. Sure enough, I go outside into a white dome of fog, not pea soup though, as the red and green channel marker buoys are flashing, and the line of lights of tall condos across the Bay at BayPoint and lining the Gulf shore at Panama City Beach. Cool and pleasant, 69F 96% up here in 7H. 

OMG, just picked up my phone and see a call from Robert. With Joe here and thinking about a death and related appointment, yesterday morning’s walk completely left my mind. We are leaving for Tallahassee at eight o’clock so Joe and Tass can visit while he’s here, back later afternoon is the plan.

Lots of about living here is perfect. One, going out on the porch feels secure and safe compared to the house where, except on the upstairs front porch, there was always at least a slight uneasiness of a prowler so don’t be completely relaxed and oblivious. Bear swimming across from Tyndall and wandering the neighborhood, happened more than once. Always an eye out for raccoons, those roof and attic monsters. Once, before I cleared out the thickness of it, I found a cooler box with beer and evidence someone’d been sleeping in the shubbery where the yard meets Calhoun Avenue, a few  steps from my downstairs front porch. At this age I enjoy a higher sense of security and freedom here.

At this age. Time and marking time, the sense of time, is a human notion as we ride along in a universe that’s still under construction, Logos still speaking as we, the billions of galaxies from our particular primal dot, continue the Bang, race with breakneck speed into wherever, fireworks, pyrotechnics, roman candle sparks that will fade and die in whatever “time” might really be. If our part started from the burst of that infinitesimal dot, there are other dots out there, having burst, bursting, yet to burst. Reality might be just a bucket of dots that explode as Logos tosses them up into the air. I guess it keeps Logos amused, eh, like an excited kid on a beach, watching fireworks in the sky on New Years Eve.

I don’t know. I don't know anything. Of that one thing I am certain.


Monday, December 28, 2015


Advent of the internet has surfaced material that theretofore one would have needed an encyclopedia to find, or a trip to the library, or would never have realized existed at all. But now I can read material in the Vatican library. Publications that were in the stacks and not available to ordinary people. Essays or books that when I was in seminary would have been on a waiting list and one could check out only for two hours or for overnight, the demand was such. Today, all instantly available at the touch of the dancing fingers. 

This morning I came across something strange. I enjoy reading and seeing the history of western Europe from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s. Often I call up Die Deutsche Wochenschau to see what was going on, or what the folks were being told, in Germany during that period. One can watch, from the German side, situations that led up to WW2 and the course of the war from before the invasion of Poland right through Hitler's ride through Paris in 1940, to the militarization of children and old women as the Reich began to fall, to days before Hitler’s suicide. Much of it I recognize as the “tails side” of propaganda that we Americans feasted on throughout WW2 to help us keep up our wartime nationalist fervor and hatred of Germans and Germany. As one who was there, I testify that the propaganda was most effective, at least on me, as I still have to recognize and struggle with hatred of all things German -- an outlook that has turned around upon myself ever since I found out that my Weller ancestors came not from England in the 1700s as I’d always been told and read, but from Germany, to my horror.  

In an August 1939 issue (the Wochenschau was a weekly newsreel, originally just German language, sometimes with later English subtitles, that goes from about summer 1939 to May 1945) I watched Reich propaganda stirring anger, fury, bitter hatred, justifying invasion and war, toward Poles and Poland ostensibly because of WW1 armistice provisions that realigned borders and made resentful and rebellious Polish subjects of many ethnic Germans. Being a person from the future looking back into the past (a characteristic that also is useful and helpful in doing Bible scholarship), I already knew what would come next. 

That particular Wochenschau, 23 August 1939, evidenced longstanding animosity between Germans and Poles, that I was never aware of, so thought to explore a bit. 

The little I read astounded me, obviously a naive person on the subject. There is a great deal of written material, including current issue, that lays the responsibility for and origin of WW2 not on Hitler and his Nazis, but on, particularly Polish, mistreatment, brutality toward ordinary ethnic Germans living outside the borders of Germany, brutalized ethic Germans escaping into Germany, and the terrible stories they told of their mistreatment experiences, in this case from the Poles. I read one long article and part of another before giving up. The second article seemed quite well balanced, but the first reads as vicious as any Wochenschau edition I’ve viewed, almost sickening. Unsurprisingly, while focusing on the brutal Polish government and Polish people, it praises the economic and cultural accomplishments of the Third Reich without mentioning the Holocaust, the Nazi’s antisemitic (though not only against Jews) policies and programs that are particularly what I remember witnessing especially when American and Allied liberating forces went through Germany at the end of WW2 that Spring of 1945. 

We love to hate, especially anyone who is different from us who, for whatever reason, doesn't like us. We're more interested in hating them back than in trying to discover why and change things.

People forget, don’t we. This morning I’m just looking around at what’s trying to happen in America as we head in to 2016 presidential election year. It's scary.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Meaning, Imagination, Stories

Homily in HNEC, PC, Florida, Sunday, Dec 27, 2015, the Rev. Tom Weller. Text: John 1:1-18.

LOGOS. TheoLogos. I shall speak of “the process” — truth, Creation, meaning, imagination, stories — doctrine. You may be seated.
In the beginning was the LOGOS, and the LOGOS was with God, and the LOGOS was God. The LOGOS was in the beginning with God. All things were made through the LOGOS, and without the LOGOS was not anything made that was made. In the LOGOS was life, and that life was the light of humanity. And the LOGOS became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

We have a "doctrine Sunday" today as sure as Trinity Sunday is a doctrine Sunday. I’d rather have a “story Sunday,” one of our imaginative stories about Jesus, especially Christmas stories from Luke -- 
  • John the Baptist, conceived by a withered old man and a barren old woman, to come as a prophetic herald. 
  • An angel coming to Mary and hearing her breathless consent to conceive and bear the Son of God. 
  • Mary and Joseph traveling from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem of Judea and, because the village is crowded with pilgrims for the census, taking shelter with the animals for the birth of the holy Child — our most earthy story, and our Christmas pageant to tell the story again and again with children of the kingdom rightly and rightfully filling all the roles.
  • God lacing the night sky with angels and song, terrifying shepherds in the field.

I love the way we blend Luke’s story of shepherds and angels and a babe in a manger — blend Luke with Matthew’s story of Magi coming from afar to worship the King, bearing majestic gifts as foretold in Isaiah and the Psalms of David. 

I love the Christmas tree — and the Night before Christmas when all through the house, a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, St. Nicholas and a bag of toys. Laying his finger aside of his nose, with a nod of his head, up the chimney he rose* is almost as much part of our magical story as shepherds in the field. It’s all good.

The Christmas story, as we mix and celebrate, is glittery, gaudy, colorful, elegant, outrageous, and doubtful, and I love the stories and our customs, as mixed and delicious as Christmas fruitcake soaked in brandy.

As a child I loved getting lost in the stories and being a shepherd. Today the stories are what I love about Sunday School and my Tuesday morning Bible Seminars. However, my gospel this morning is not an imaginative story but our central doctrine as the church espies, recognizes and appropriates LOGOS, the creating power in ancient Greek philosophy, makes LOGOS a person, even a man, names him Jesus, and doctrine is born. 

I prefer a story: Once upon a time long ago and far away, a child was conceived in love, by the love of the creating God, because of God’s love for us. And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, and a man and woman traveled to Bethlehem where the love child was born, and angels filled the heavens, frightening shepherds in the field; and a star in the sky led kings to the brightness of his rising. And Heilsgeschichte, our holy history with God had a new beginning.

I love to tell the story, I refuse to lecture the doctrine. And there are other stories better than doctrines and their creeds. Better than creeds and doctrine is C. S. Lewis’ imaginative chronicle where witnesses who have unwittingly dragged a lamppost from a London streetcorner across a wrinkle in space and time listen in awe as Aslan sings creatively in the darkness and ever so gradually light dawns upon Narnia, where Aslan and LOGOS are one, and Jesus Christ can be seen, and there is no creed but lovingkindhess. 

In the Koran, Allah tells Mohammed that we are “people of the book,” and so we are, with stories that tell imaginatively of God’s love and of Christ Jesus. But doctrine is a human concept: God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, homoousios with God the Father.** Not “Glory to God in the highest,” the story sung by the angels, but the Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. And yet they are not three incomprehensibles, but one incomprehensible.*** It is not possible with doctrine and creed to explain, the only way to get a sense of it is where the stories are told and sung by God’s children through the ages of ages.

Looking around, we breathe air and see dirt and life and beauty and death. Gazing into the heavens we see a fraction of Creation still being sung into being by LOGOS: galaxies, planets, stars, sun and moon. Beholding the splendor, we ask, “what’s the meaning?” and stirred by what Friedrich Schleiermacher called “a sense of the infinite,” our imagination explodes with stories of angels and shepherds, and of the love of God set loose in the midst of us. Over decades and generations, stories are told over and over, and written down so we remember and get it right in the telling. But in time men argue and fight, and shout “heresy” and “heretic” at each other, and codify doctrine, and a creed is born. (No thank you. I can think for myself).

Bible stories gave birth to doctrine; but the stories are prior. The stories are truth and grace. Doctrine comes last, and, set in creedal concrete, quenches the imagination that cast us in the divine image from the time of Adam and Eve and the Serpent in the Garden.

LOGOS creates and we see meaning in creation. Imagination illumines meaning with stories, but stories grow into doctrine. “Let there be Light,” and it is so: meaning, imagination, stories, and doctrine in that order. The truth is in the stories. Yes, the stories are childish, but unless ye become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. In the beginning was LOGOS the Word, but Christmas only comes true when children parade down the aisle on Christmas Eve as the story. Tiny shepherds and lambs, angels, people singing, kings bearing gifts, a little mother in blue, bewildered old Joseph wondering what happened, and a newborn infant “no crying he makes,” is more salvific than all the doctrine the Church Fathers could lay on us. The story is the essence of Christmas. 

LOGOS, meaning, imagination, and a story. The truth of Christmas is found in following a star. Don’t fret about an incomprehensible Creed, just say it!!! All you need to remember, the real thing, is right in front of you under a star, right before your eyes, a picture story of God’s love for us. And that’s the truth.

* 'Twas the night before Christmas
** Nicene Creed
*** Athanasian Creed

say What?

A blank slate, every morning begins with a blank slate and puzzlement: what to write? It isn’t for any reader out there who may be waiting breathless for ayaSophia, but for me alone, clinging precarious to that last drop, ounce, tittle of sanity before the plunge into the abyss. What then?

Our gospel this morning is not a story, not one of our wonderful stories of Jesus, not “I love to tell the story,” but an ajar door that admits human interference with Heilsgeschichte. The storyteller is quiet, the campfire has died down. Around its embers doze a few wanderers who have not gone home to their tents. As light hints in the east, stars blink out, extinguished one by one. Intellectuals arrive to construct a concrete bunker for the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, and creeds are born to define incomprehensibly the One who, speaking from the fire, will not even tell us his Name. I AM.

It may be that I prefer telling a story to preaching doctrine, but this is a doctrine Sunday.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Faithful Xmas

With my girls here, and never knowing when there'll be another, I didn't want Christmas Day to end. Ended anyway, Ray took Lilly home, Malinda and Kristen went home just down the street but will be back for Boxing Day dinner about noon. Xmas was special. It isn't necessary for me to talk or even to hear what's being said, I just need to be where they are, in the room with. 

Being faithful means watching "A Christmas Story," and it doesn't matter where one tunes in, because it rolls over and over again for about twenty-four hours, and I see it through at least twice: half and whole and half. The important thing is the Oldsmobile, Ralphie's father was an Oldsmobile man. He drove a 1937 Olds Six, the six has the bold horizontal front grill, the eight has a more expensive looking mesh grill. In fact, here's Ralphie's dad's car, the touring sedan with built-in trunk, not the model with spare tire on back. Ah, the good ole days --

This year we had one medium size turkey, and Linda was wrong, it was plenty. There’s turkey left over plus turkey soup working, and we didn’t even cut into the dark meat yet. Except the two drumsticks were gnawed. Corn pudding, broccoli casserole, dressing and my oyster dressing. All sorts of sweets. Wines, eggnogs weak and strong. Cheeses.

For today there’s beef, delicious salmon beautifully cooked on cedar planks by Chef Ray. Coffee. Chocolate. Which brings me to my subject.

A friend gave me a chocolate car, a 1928 Chevrolet series AB National coach. It’s too cool to open it and eat the car, way too cool, not happen. I'll bite the ears off a chocolate Easter rabbit but cannot bite a wheel off this car. Instead I’ve done my research. 

Chevy’s slogan for the 1928 model year was “Bigger and Better,” so I’ve gone online to see if they’re lying. Turns out it was true, it is bigger than 1927, the engine's beefed up, more details to remember for when St. Peter asks his questions at the pearly gates. 

What do I know now that I didn’t know this time yesterday. 

The 1928 Chevrolet AB National is bigger than the 1927 Chevrolet AA Capitol. We’re looking at the coach model, which is what auto manufacturers called their two door sedans during the 1920s and thirties. Except Ford was cute, calling his sedans "Fordor" and "Tudor." My parents had a 1935 Chevrolet Master Deluxe coach when I was born and that I grew halfway up riding in. Ours had WSW tires and yellow spoke wheels, but this exact car:

1935 was the first year Chevrolet (most all of GM except Buick and some Cadillacs) had the all steel "turret body" instead of the old style with the fabric top insert. Though the Chevrolet Standard continued, the last year with the old body style. This, old model Chevy Standard, is what our rector, Father Frank Dearing drove, and also my friend Weldon:

Weldon liked that the fabric top on his Chevy Standard eventually leaked onto the far right side of the front seat such that his girlfriend had to squeeze over by him to keep from getting wet.

Anyway, this is about the 1928 Chevrolet. Here are some of the specification details that St. Peter will be asking, along with a few pics so he can’t stump you with his flash cards. Learn this stuff, don’t let your salvation hang in the balance. Here we go, 1927 first, then 1928:

1927 Chevrolet. Series AA, Capitol coach. 4 cyl, 2.8 ltr, 26.8 bhp ohv engine, 102” wheelbase, 148” overall length. Price $595 fob Flint, Michigan.

Back to the Bigger and Better. 1928 Chevrolet. Series AB, National coach. 4 cyl, 2.8 ptr, 35 bhp ohv engine, 

106” wheelbase, 152” overall length. Price $585 fob Flint:

See, Peter doesn’t ask Bible verses, he thinks we know all that stuff, he’s a crafty one. He asks what one least expects. And if you can't tell a 1928 Chevy National from a 1928 Model A Ford (see below) 

(1928 Model A Fords above) expect Peter to pull the lever that opens the trap door into the hell chute. Now back to the 1928 Chevy:

Here's the full line for 1928, just in case. Note that the Imperial Landau is the top of the line, at $715. The other closed cars are a bit less, but the open cars are cheap: you can get the touring car or roadster for $495 --

Friday, December 25, 2015

Xmas cactus

At the moment the summer weather in Sydney, Australia is 69F while the winter weather here in Panama City is 71F. In Ann Arbor, 37F 96%. 57F in San Diego. 50F in Columbus, Ohio. 67F in WashingtonDC. 50F in Harrisburg, 74F at WaltDisneyWorld, 46F in Yokohama, to name a few places I've lived and loved. What now? Probably a tomato sandwich.

What comes to mind on Christmas morning? Always first is walking around in the backyard, barefooted, short pants, no shirt, loving my new Gene Autry cap pistol that I showed an exact picture of here recently. What year did we get those, Walt? Mine was plain, probably because my parents knew I’d want it unmarred, Walt’s had a “W” carved into the salmon-colored handle. I'm thinking of that winter when we had a sudden 25 inch snowfall in Washington, DC and couldn't get out. I remember standing at the bottom of the steps as a child, with Gina and Walt, waiting for the signal from mama, to burst into the living room to see what Santa had left. 

One thing I remember, have I blogged this? My mother was a perfect seamstress. One Christmas morning we came into the living room to find Santa Claus’ hat lying on the fireplace hearth. Our father’s pistol may have been lying there beside it, seems to me it was. The father says,“I almost got him.” Horrified, a believer, I clouded up toward tears, when mama confessed it was a prank, she’d made the Santa hat. If not a sermon, at least there’s probably a morale, or at least a lesson, but I’m not going there. How old was I that morning? Probably six, maybe seven.

What else? At our house on Wakefield Chapel Road, Annandale, Virginia, ringing jingle bells outside Malinda and Jody’s bedroom window as Linda got them ready for bed, and hearing their excited screams, it’s a wonder they went to sleep at all that night. That would have been 1966, our first Christmas back from three years in Japan. 

A child later, Christmas 1973, Tass climbing into the little doll crib Santa had left her and shrieking, “Mom, lookit Her!!!” From the moment she was born, Tassy was the “Her” and “She” in our house, and she knew it. So did her daddy. 

Christmas 1969, USS Tripoli (LPH-10) somewhere in the western Pacific, off Vietnam. Seems to me we went alongside USS Iwo Jima that Christmas morning to highline a CH-53 rotor blade and other parts critically needed by their Marine helicopter squadron. I’m not sure, ships’ logs would show. What I do remember is the loneliness.

Pretty quiet here this morning too.

Keep the Xpistos in Xmas cactus.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eves

Christmas Eve before +Time

Interesting Christmas Eve building here, 73F 99% wind 17 mph at oh two thirty, can hardly see anything because windows are thickly covered with a layer of moisture. Opening the sliding door onto the porch brings a strong breeze whipping things around the room as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly. So it really is Christmas Eve.

Our gospel at church this evening will be a wonderfully chaotic Christmas pageant of children and song, music, carols, here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the door and there’s all the people roomful of happy celebrants, parents and proud grandparents. If I have it right, the ho ho ho “liturgy” starts at four-thirty but music and singing starts at four o’clock. Pray the weather’s decent, because at Holy Nativity every event is even better than the superlative one before.

The first service is packed. The second one is ten-thirty tonight I think, with music starting at ten. 

What comes to mind. Two things, I reckon, three, maybe four. Once again, my first “Midnight Mass” when I was thirteen. My siblings were too young to go, but I was old enough at last, a nap before church, then mama woke me with a cup of hot chocolate, I dressed and went with my father. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, we were in our new 1948 Dodge. After church the weather was chilly, foggy, damp, and as we drove away my father rolled down his window and called, “Merry Christmas, John,” to John Pennel, tenor in our choir. It was my first realization that Christmas is the Christmas Eve service.

Another memory. Christmases during the late 1970s when we lived in Pennsylvania, the year, it would have been 1976, our first year there, Linda and Tass went to Mount Calvary, while I went to St. Luke’s because it was “high church,” then went to Mount Calvary later and to the party after at someone's house. Bitter cold, deep snow, frozen roads and the Oldsmobile station wagon slipping and skidding all over.  

My enchantment with St. Luke’s went south the Sunday I watched the rector scratch his nose as he prepared the bread and wine. Nameless, that rector years later deposed for fraternizing with parishioner wives, then went to work for the commonwealth.

I digress.

For twenty years or so, from 1984 on, I thought Christmas happened nowhere else in the universe but Apalachicola, at Trinity Church. Chill and damp outside, historic old church bursting at the seams with friends and neighbors. After the Whiteside wedding when the family insisted on incense and bought a thurible, I joyfully smoked up the place on Christmas Eve. At some point an overzealous thurifer, I think it another Whiteside son, spilled burning coals on the new red carpet right up at the step into the Altar area. Each member of the choir that night, as they paused to “reverence the cross,” went stomp stomp stomp stomp on the smoking coals glowing brightly on the carpet. Thereafter, I used dry ice and water to create incense smoke.

Maybe the other memory is Christmas Eve 2010. I was two-plus months into my diagnosed “two to five months to live” and popping nitroglycerin pills one after another to keep the angina at bay while waiting for my end of January appointment at Cleveland Clinic. But I assisted at the Christmas Eve service anyway, a picture around here somewhere of me giving Communion to loved ones at the Altar rail. He may not remember, but only the rector and I knew how fast I was popping the pills, and after the service he told Linda to take me home.

Ah —
 a fifth. Christmas 1947 I was in Adams Hospital, Panama City, recovering from my appendectomy. My mother made my hospital room bright with a table top Christmas tree with bubble-lights. We had that little tree for years. 

Half a dozen then. Christmas 1978 USN (Retired) …



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Not getting it

“Well, Yukon ate bars of cane,” Linda said to me as I sat here waiting for square and cuppa to bring me to full conscious, staring out the sliding door into the reflection of the Bay bedroom, bathroom and closet behind me.

Our Beck bedroom barely has space for one bed, a king that we brought from the house, and a floor lamp and barrel chair where I sometimes sit to read. Some inches width on either side allow one to squeeze in and climb into bed. Bay bedroom is larger, regular furniture plus we’ve made a “family room” in the Bay end of it, generous sitting space, Linda’s chair faces the television. Facing the Bay, my  chair is the blue “lift chair” we bought my mother for her 98th birthday but she never learned to use it. I have two bookshelves from the house, books and a few treasures, stingily rationed supply of chocolate, and a floor lamp on a stem, that I bought from the estate sale of an architect in Apalalchicola in 1985, his daughter said it had been her dad’s “architect lamp.”

So, I sit here quietly contemplating what Linda has said to me, waiting to see if my brain can retranslate the hum of words that went through my ears that no longer filter well without my hearing aids. She watches me as I cogitate thoughtfully. Finally I admit, “I just don’t get it.” She repeats, more clearly, not mumbling this time (the woman needs speech therapy), “Well, you slept eight hours again.” And so I did, eight-thirty to four-thirty this time, the dream was back in the Navy, shore duty in Washington, the headquarters building, which was open on one side like a doll house. It was my first day in the office, and I was walking along in the park looking up into the open front building checking to see if the admiral was still in his office, so I could go in and visit. He was gone, so I headed home. I don’t know whether that dream was brought on by Father Nature jumping up and down on my bladder, but it wasn’t my usual anxiety dream. Maybe those are gone for good, IDK.

2 shopping days ’til XMAS.

This morning to The Carousel to pick up the tenderloin for Boxing Day. They’re reworking the store into a gourmet place, the usual best beef but added exotic items, including when we were out there last week I bought two or three different kinds of pâté, which I love on very crisp thin ww toast. One is duck liver pâté, which’ve been finding only at Fresh Market. 

Charlie carried the area’s best beer and wine selection, and Dock has continued and expanded that. Cheap, the original cheapskate, I look for wine bargains and markdowns, and $10 is way above my usual limit, I’m at $7 or $8. In Australia forty years ago I heard praise for Penfold’s wines, so bought a bottle of their shiraz, which not opened yet. They also had a Penfold’s blend, which I never buy blends, but this shiraz-cabernet was marked down to about $4 a bottle, so I bought two. Screw cap, which is coming to be acceptable. The bottle I’ve opened was so sharp it had to air a couple days to mellow to drinkable, at which point it becomes priced right at $4. In the package store Linda needed rum for rumcake, so I bought a bottle of blackstrap molasses rum. The rumcake smells and looks delicious. Linda says I can't cut it because it's for my wake, but she is going to the church to "green" this morning, I may have a slice of rumcake for breakfast after she leaves.

If we can’t have snow, at least it’s cloudy, overcast, cool dark and damp. Perfect Florida Christmas weather.  

70F, 98%, raining on Shell Island and heading my way.

Thos+ in +Time+

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dream on

Dream on

Nobody needs a daily report of Bubba’s sleep, but 10 o’clock to 0600 was eight hours. Minus a 21 second break and straight back to sleep. To not look at the clock when I rouse for the break lets me go back to sleep. The dream may even have resumed. Tucking that one away so it doesn’t evaporate and can be recalled when next unable to fall asleep. Having a moment to retrieve from a cranial crevice, real or dream, can obliterate everything around it like a movie, fading, phasing, an old silent film, cut to the chase. “A dream itself is but a shadow.” But no less a shadow than is a memory a shadow. Cut to Hecuba. zzzzz

While I slept through, Linda woke at two o’clock to what she said was the most violent thunderstorm to have passed through since we’ve been here. Donner and Blitzen. She checked to see I was breathing (wait ‘till you get here, you’ll be checking too), but I remember the first week in our dorm at UFlorida. North Hall, a fire drill at one or two o’clock in the morning. Philip was up and rushing about trying to waken me and I could not be roused. Panicking, he shouted to no avail, shook me, 18 year old college freshman asleep beyond waking as the fire alarm rings on and on. 62 years ago this past September. I owe Philip a letter.

Best sleeping: against the hull of a destroyer, sea swishing by my ear 3/4 inch away. Skin of the ship between me and Leviathan.

Monday, December 21, 2015

It's just me

Oh, it's only you, Tom

There are lots of sayings, a favorite at the moment being I thought getting old would take longer. But it hasn’t, didn’t. Who is that old man anyway. Sure as aitch ain’t me, only thirty-nine years old. 

Or, I was. Thought I still am. Somebody’s lying. If it’s not the camera, it’s the mirror.

Lately’ve been waking up still asleep. The grogginess, e.g., up early this morning for twenty-one seconds, back into warm bed to doze another hour. But dozing doesn’t help. Up. Sit on edge of bed. Cuppa black and square of dark helps, eh, though yesterday was still groggy being followed down the aisle. What is it?

Three shopping days ’til Xmas. 

Eighty minutes ’til the mill whistle blows and the walk starts.

Don’t say eighty.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

All I want for Christmas

A perfect Christmas morning-in-waiting out there, 38F and 80% by the weather map, actually a little warmer at 7H, above forty right here on the water. Jesus says (MT 18:3) "Except ye ... become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," and it all comes back every year at this season. 

When I was a boy I always wished for snow at Christmas. It never happened, I never saw snow until that December 1957 morning in Newport, Rhode Island, and I never saw snow here in Panama City until February 1988. But being outside in the backyard on Christmas morning, barefooted and wearing my new holster with cap pistol ready for cowboys and indians or war, put snow the farthest thing from my mind. 
All it took to make a boy happy was Christmas vacation, a cap pistol
 and a roll of caps.

All I want for Christmas is to be a boy and to enter the kingdom of heaven. I am already in the kingdom of heaven. But no one will ever be a boy again.