Sunday, April 5, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Big Friday

To observant Christians, today is Good Friday.  To observant Jewish people, tonight is the first night of Passover.  And to some of us, it’s payday.  There’s a reason to celebrate something right there.

Most Quakers don’t observe holidays because they believe that every day is a reason to celebrate.  But I’ve been invited to Seder tonight with my friends — I will wear my Quaker hat as my yarmulke — and enjoy the lesson in history and the brisket.  Just because we don’t make a big deal out of it doesn’t mean I can’t help friends celebrate their traditions and be a Friend.

It’s a teacher workday at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, which means kids get the day off and it’s (hopefully) going to be a quiet Quaker-like day at the office.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ddyhea buchedda Cymru!

[This post was slated to go up yesterday morning — Sunday, March 1 — but somehow it ended up in draft mode until I noticed it this morning.  Better late than never, I suppose.]

March 1 is St. David’s (Dewi Sant) Day, the patron saint of Wales (“Cymru”). Notable people of Welsh descent include Richard Burton, poet Dylan Thomas, and me on one side of the family.

The title is a literal translation of “Long live Wales!” courtesy of an on-line English to Welsh translation service.

Here’s the national anthem, and a phonetic version of the lyrics so you can sing along:

My hen laid a haddock on top of a tree
Glad farts and centurions throw dogs in the sea
I could stew a hare here, and brandish Don’s flan.
Don’s ruddy bog’s blocked up with sand.
Dad! Dad! Why don’t you oil Aunty Glad?
When whores appear on beer bottle pies,
Oh butter the hens as they fly.
Dad! Dad! Why don’t you oil Aunty Glad?
When whores appear on beer bottle pies,
Oh butter the hens as they fly.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther KingToday is the federal holiday set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday.

For me, growing up as a white kid in a middle-class suburb in the Midwest in the 1960’s, Dr. King’s legacy would seem to have a minimum impact; after all, what he was fighting for didn’t affect me directly in any way.  But my parents always taught me that anyone oppressed in our society was wrong, and that in some way it did affect me.  This became much more apparent as I grew up and saw how the nation treated its black citizens; those grainy images on TV and in the paper of water-hoses turned on the Freedom Marchers in Alabama showed me how much hatred could be turned on people who were simply asking for their due in a country that promised it to them.  And when I came out as a gay man, I became much more aware of it when I applied the same standards to society in their treatment of gays and lesbians.

Perhaps the greatest impression that Dr. King had on me was his unswerving dedication to non-violence in his pursuit of civil rights.  He withstood taunts, provocations, and rank invasions of his privacy and his life at the hands of racists, hate-mongers, and the federal government, yet he never raised a hand in anger against anyone.  He deplored the idea of an eye for an eye, and he knew that responding in kind would only set back the cause.  I was also impressed that his spirituality and faith were his armor and his shield, not his weapon, and he never tried to force his religion on anyone else.  The supreme irony was that he died at the hands of violence, much like his role model, Mahatma Gandhi.

There’s a question in the minds of a lot of people of how to celebrate a federal holiday for a civil rights leader. Isn’t there supposed to be a ritual or a ceremony we’re supposed to perform to mark the occasion?  But how do you signify in one day or in one action what Dr. King stood for, lived for, and died for?  Last August marked the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech.  That marked a moment; a milestone.  Today is supposed to honor the man and what he stood for and tried to make us all become: full citizens with all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; something that is with us all day, every day.

For me, it’s having the memories of what it used to be like and seeing what it has become for all of us that don’t take our civil rights for granted, which should be all of us, and being both grateful that we have come as far as we have and humbled to know how much further we still have to go.

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Today is also a school holiday, so blogging will be on a holiday schedule.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

From me and mine to you and yours.

BBWW Mug Shot 11-03-14

From Charlie Pierce:

We are a little lost here in America. Too many of us have tuned out, and too many of us are deeply tuned in to the wrong things. Our eccentricities have curdled into crochets. Our love for the strange and deeply weird has soured into a devotion to the mean and deeply angry. Our renegade national soul has given itself up to petty outlawry. We have tailored the principles of our founding documents — flawed though their authors were — into cheap camouflage for our boring traditional grudges. None of these things are good things. But none of those things is permanent, either. Imagination always has been the way out — a faith in that which seems impossible, a trust that not every mystery is a murder mystery, and that not every mysterious creature is a monster. Imagination is the way out — a belief that safety is not necessarily the primary (or even the secondary) goal of democratic citizenship, and that a self-governing political commonwealth does not always come with a lifetime guarantee. Yes, we are a little lost here in America, but we can find our way, and the best way that we can find is the one that seems like the least secure, the darkest trail, the one with the long, sweeping bend in the road that leads god knows where. We must trust what we can imagine, and we must trust that what we can imagine is the product of what is the best of us. And, whether we imagine it or not, it’s going to happen anyway.

I can imagine a great deal.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day

I had a wonderful time last night courtesy of Bob and the Old Professor, joined by close friends Dan and Kathy, Ira and Susan, Bill and Terri, Joel, Joanne, and Chris, and Chiz and Jordana, sharing a great meal and good times.  I am very grateful to have such good friends.

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I hope you had a good time yesterday with your friends and family if you celebrated.  What did you do?

Today is Boxing Day.  In countries and places with a British heritage, it’s an official holiday when, according to Wikipedia, “servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses[1] or employers.”  Hmm.  I don’t have any servants, and I already got a box of chocolates from my boss, so I guess I’ll just hang out around the house and catch up on a crossword or two.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Sense of Christmas

Continuing a tradition I began back when this blog was new, which is another way of saying that I’ve posted this on Christmases past…

Christmas WreathWhen I was a kid, our family lived in a house with tall ceilings so we always got a Christmas tree that was at least ten feet tall – maybe taller. (It could have been less, but when you’re six or seven, it looks a lot taller.) We had tons of decorations from our family history; gingerbread decorations held together with fine wire, bubble lights that never seemed to work right, and hundreds of ornaments. We always had a debate about tinsel – I hated it, my sister wanted it. Guess who won that one. Every year we put the tree in a different room – one year in the living room, the next in the front parlor, and then in the bay window in the dining room.

That was not the extent of the decorating by any means. While my family was not particularly religious, we went all out for the season in the decor mode that would have made Martha Stewart get out of the business. This was a tradition carried on from both of my parent’s families; my father tells how his father was a meticulous hanger of the old-fashioned lead tinsel, and my mother’s family did it up to the heights of giddiness that included the tree and presents magically appearing overnight on Christmas Eve. So we had a legacy to live up to. Lights on the front porch were interwoven in the cedar roping that looped down from the eaves. There was more roping on the bannister going up the front stairs, tied on with red ribbons, and roping again around the big mirror in the front hall. Candles in Christmas candelabra filled the house with the scent of candle smoke, merging with the evergreens, and on Christmas Eve, when the big roast was in the oven for the dinner with Aunt Margaret, the house was awash with homey aromas.

We had an old-fashioned hi-fi system with speakers throughout the first floor of the house, and as we put up the tree and the roping – usually the weekend before Christmas – we would dig out the Christmas LP’s. The perennial was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Joy To the World that began with “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” That would be followed by the Bing Crosby Merry Christmas album and anything else we had in the rack.

We had two fireplaces in the house, including one in the kitchen, so that’s where we hung our stockings with care. Christmas morning would arrive and the four kids would line up, youngest first, on the back stairs, squirming with anticipation until we were let into the kitchen and a breakfast of Christmas baked treats, including a Scandinavian stollen baked by a family friend. (Never one who liked things like that, I often wished the stollen would be stolen….) Then we’d line up at the appropriate closed door behind which lay the treasure. Nearly fainting with the anticipation, the door would be flung open – a four-voiced gasp of breath, followed by pounding feet and squeals of delight. We took turns, shredding the wrapping, opening the boxes, reading the tags – “From Mom and Dad,” “From Santa,” “From Grammie.” My mother kept a list of who got what from whom so that the thank-you notes could be written. There was always one Big Present for each kid – a bicycle, skis, a train set, a kitten – and lots of books and clothes, too. And each child was sure to give his sibling something, usually something oddly appropriate; like lavender bath beads from me to my sister.

When it was all over, the trash can was filled with the wrappings, the loot taken upstairs, and new clothes tried on. I would pore through the new books until I was nagged to get dressed to go to Christmas dinner somewhere else – with cross-town relatives or the Carranor Club – and the streets would be empty as we piled into the station wagon. We’d come home in the cold and dark, tired from all the excitement, ready to come down from the sugar-spiked high. The next day we’d pack up for our annual skiing trip to Boyne Mountain in Michigan, complete with its own set of sense memories.

These traditions were carried on as we each grew up and started our own families, adding our own touches; Allen and I merged some of each to come up with our own for fifteen years, including the tree (artificial, though – he’s allergic to pine) and music. (I’ve got the Bing Crosby CD on as I write this.) My sister has passed it on to her children, and my younger brother, with his three kids, carries on much as we did when we were young.

So while there may not be a whole lot of religion in any of it, there’s the strength of the ties of family and love that surpasses any denominational definition. It is a common thread that binds us all together whether we say “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” “Felice Navidad” (which I immediately corrupted to “Fleas On Your Dad”), “Happy Hanukkah,” or “Good Kwanzaa.” It’s the sense of togetherness and hope that can be spread regardless of whether or not you celebrate the birth of the son of God, and the thankfulness that you feel that you have made it through yet another year and look forward to making the next one better.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Festivus

It’s the most grumpiest time of the year!

Festivus 12-23-14

Festivus, a well-celebrated parody, has become a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 that serves as an alternative to participating in the pressures and commercialism of the Christmas season.[1] Originally a family tradition of scriptwriter Dan O’Keefe, who worked on the American sitcom Seinfeld, the holiday entered popular culture after it was made the focus of a 1997 episode of the program.[1][2] The holiday’s celebration, as it was shown on Seinfeld, includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, practices such as the “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength”, and the labeling of easily explainable events as “Festivus miracles”.[3]

Keep it in the family.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Festival of Lights

Menorah

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah (חנוכה). If you celebrate the festival, best wishes for a peaceful and joyous eight days, and remember to save some of the leftovers for your goyishe friends who have a hankering for the delicacies of the season.

Have fun taking the dreidel out for a spin.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Just A Simple Wreath Will Do

Decking the halls gets dangerous.

Police said they charged 53-year-old Richard Carter with attempted homicide for shooting at his neighbor on Saturday afternoon.

Talk about your war on Christmas….

Thursday, November 27, 2014

We Gather Together

Originally posted Thanksgiving 2007.

FreedomfromWantWhen I was a kid growing up outside of Toledo, we had some relatives in the area, and we also belonged to a local tennis and social club that served as a gathering place for a group of families like ours and we often went there for holiday dinners. It relieved my mom from cooking one of the two big meals at the holidays; if we had Thanksgiving at home, then we went to the club or another relative’s place for Christmas, or vice versa. We also would have the Thanksgiving meal later in the day — usually around the normal dinner time — because we had season tickets to the Detroit Lions football team, and we would go up to Detroit to sit in the freezing cold bleachers to watch the Lions play their traditional Thanksgiving Day game, then come home to the dinner.

It’s been a while since my family has gotten together for Thanksgiving. We’ve all moved on to different places and have our own families. It’s been many years since my entire immediate family — Mom, Dad, and my three siblings and their families — were together for the occasion.

However, there was one Thanksgiving that I’ll never forget: 1967. I was a freshman at St. George’s, the boarding school in Newport, Rhode Island (and also alma mater of Howard Dean and Tucker Carlson). It was my first extended time away from home and I was miserable. My older brother and sister were also away at school; one in New Jersey, the other in Virginia. My parents made arrangements for us all to get together in New York City that weekend, and they booked rooms at the Plaza Hotel. We saw two Broadway musicals — Mame with Angela Lansbury and Henry, Sweet Henry with Don Ameche — and a little musical in Greenwich Village called Now Is The Time For All Good Men…. We went shopping in Greenwich Village, took hansom cab rides in Central Park, had lunch at Toots Shor’s (and got Cab Calloway’s autograph), dinner at Trader Vic’s and Luchow’s, and saw all the sights that a kid from Ohio on his second trip to NYC (the first being the World’s Fair in 1964) could pack into one four-day weekend. Oh, and we had the big Thanksgiving dinner in the Oak Room at the Plaza with all the trimmings. That night we went down to the nightclub below the Plaza and listened to smoky jazz played by a trio and a lovely woman on piano…could it have been Blossom Dearie?

It was a magical weekend. To this day I still remember the sights and sounds and sensations, and the deep sadness that settled back over me as I boarded the chartered bus that took me back to the dank purgatory of that endless winter at school overlooking the grey Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve had a lot of wonderful and memorable Thanksgivings since then at home and with friends, everywhere from Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and even one in Jamaica, but that weekend at the Plaza will always be special.

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The best part about Thanksgiving is that it is a guilt-free holiday.  There’s no religious obligation or somber remembrance attached to it.  Just enjoy the company of friends and family and celebrate the great American tradition of eating yourself into a coma, talking politics, and watching football (go Lions!).  So whatever you do or how you do it, I hope you have a good time and safe travels.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Over The River…

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. and even though a lot of people still have to go to work (ahem), it’s pretty much taken for granted that a lot of people will be traveling or just taking the week off.  Lucky them.

We’re having our annual feast today at work which means a home-cooked turkey with all the trimmings, pretty much insuring that we’ll all be useless after it’s over.  (Have you ever tried to reconcile a spreadsheet with a turkey and stuffing hangover?)

So what are your plans for the week and the holiday?