Month: March 2012

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THE GUEST HOUSE

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

–Rumi

my favorite tree waving goodbye…
till next time!

THANK YOU CHRISTINE!!! WELCOME HOME…

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REPORT FROM ANAHEIM: “THE CONGRESS” 2012

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD…
HELP!!!

 I have survived the humongous Religious Ed. Congress in Anaheim that takes place at the Convention Center each year. 


My adventure began with driving 90-plus miles through hideous rush hour traffic last Friday morning, praying I’d arrive on time for my 10 a.m. appointment. I was neatly packed, fairly organized, congratulating myself and thanking God as I pulled into the gargantuan parking structure (Lot 4) when suddenly my tongue moved down to my lower jaw and I realized I had left my fake (temporary) tooth by the sink back home. So I met with publishers for two days with a hole in my lower mouth. I tried (with very little success) not to laugh too hard or open my mouth too wide. And then I just pretended nothing was wrong, and thus nothing was.

I met Robert Ellsberg, editor-in-chief of Orbis Books, who edited both the journals and letters of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day. I met with Paul Pennick of 23rd Publications, and with Tom Grady and Bob Hamma of Ave Maria.  I stopped in at the Magnificat booth and said hey to Paul Snatchko
I of course stopped in at the Paraclete booth, where I was proud to see displayed a big ole poster of my very own Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux.

I spotted Fr. Vince from St. Francis of Assisi, my neighborhood church back in L.A. Fr. Vince!” I brayed, barreling through the crowd, but Fr. Vince DID not seem quite as thrilled to see me as I was to see him. This could be due to the fact that he’s heard some of my confessions.

Mostly, though, I met with the folks from Franciscan Media. I met with John Feister, who edits the magazine St. Anthony Messenger. I met Judy Zarick, who produces their radio show “Living Faith” and has put together a book called Moved by Faith: Stories from American Catholic Radio.

At dinner, the conversation turned to housecleaning and Mark ended up giving us a fascinating ironing tutorial. His parents owned an appliance store, turns out, and were away from home a lot but supervised the two boys (there were no sisters to do the dirty work) from afar, the result being that to this day when traveling Mark looks around first thing for an ironing board and an iron, whips out his spray starch, and goes to work on his French cuffs.

As we three gals looked on, agog that such a creature even existed, he segued into a commentary on kitchen cleanup: wiping the counters, vacuuming under the refrigerator, doing the dishes.
“Back up a sec,” I said. “You vacuum under the fridge?”
“Of course–don’t you?”
“With what?” I asked.
“Why, a crevice tool.”
“What is a crevice tool?” we all shrieked in unison.

Turns out it’s this thing: one of those pesky gadgets that come with the vacuum and you throw in the back of the closet with the old tennis balls and phone books and put out with the trash 15 years later.

I also learned that in addition to the Sunday exception to the Lenten fast, there is also apparently a TRAVELING EXCEPTION. “Cut it out!” I said. “Let’s have some dessert then.” Turns out, since I’ve been “traveling” (technically, as in been away from home) for a month, I could have been scarfing down sugar for weeks.  This is the kind of “faith sharing” I am ALL for.

Upwards of 40,000 people converge on this thing, which can be a little overwhelming, but I was able to look around and see, Oh, look, we’re all so hungry, we all so want to connect, we’re like sheep without a shepherd and how beautiful that so many people, with so many different approaches, interests, and orientations-of-heart can come together, attend lectures, talks, and workshops; chat and eat; look at, buy and sell books, tapes, rosaries, vestments, candles, pamphlets, and change purses embossed with the Virgin of Guadalupe, The Last Supper, and the Shroud of Turin.

CACTUS IN BACK OF THE MOTEL 6 ON BROOKHURST WHERE I STAYED
NOTE PLASTIC BAG AT LOWER LEFT

Still, it was good to be back for a vesper walk through the quiet streets of Palm Springs.

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THE CABAZON OUTLETS: ADVENTURES IN LENTEN SHOPPING

WHERE DID I PARK AGAIN?…

I have been to the Cabazon Outlets, off the I-10 W, outside Palm Springs.

This might seem to have nothing to do with Lent–or really anything–except that I view Lent the same way any alkie worth his or her salt views New Year’s Eve: amateur night. Lent for me, if by Lent you mean scarcity, making do without, and deprivation, is business as usual.

Of course deprivation is not what Lent is really about, and that’s why for me to go to a mall and spend some money is in a way a far greater “dying to myself” than, say, fasting from sugar. .

SWIMMING POOLS
MOVIE STARS
THE DESERT OF LENT

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GARVAN BYRNE, CHILD SAGE

TODAY’S GOSPEL:

Mark 12:28-34

King James Version (KJV)
 28And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
 29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
 31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
 32And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
 33And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
 34And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

GARVAN BYRNE, DYING 12-YEAR-OLD WITH INSIGHT, MIND, AND HEART OF SPIRITUALLY EVOLVED OCTOGENARIAN. I MYSELF AM SOMEWHAT RESISTANT TO “INSPIRATIONAL STORIES,” ESPECIALLY OF TERMINALLY ILL CHILDREN, BUT THIS KID WAS TRULY NOT OF THIS WORLD….


PART 1: 9:58


PART 2: 5:03


PART 3: 6:38

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THE DAUGHTERS OF ST. PAUL

My usual plaint is Why can’t people leave me alone? Why do people always have to be tugging at my sleeve? Out here in Palm Springs, what with the solitude/silence/time away from home, I’ve segued into, Where is everybody? Nobody ever likes ME. 

Thus, starved for conversation: “Hi!” I waylaid a complete stranger as he was getting into his car in the parking lot of Albertson’s the other day.  “How’s it goin,” he replied warily, turning on the ignition. “Glad you asked,” I said, wedging myself inside his door, “because I’m out here visiting? I’ve lived in L.A. since 1990 but I’m out here watching my friend Christine’s house, she comes from Zermatt, Switzerland, but she’s letting me use her house which is really pretty amazing anyone would let me use anything considering I was a giant drunk for many years, sober now though!, and I’ve had a lot of time to think–you know, aging, death–and all kinds of stuff has come up and what’s happening, a LOT,  is I am really getting in touch with my narcissistic personality disorder.” 

I left just as he began to dial 911.

Then, next day I had to take my car in. The guy at Kelley’s was explaining the estimate, droning on about oil pans and timing belts when suddenly I leaned in and laid my hand on his arm. “Say,” I asked, “did your mother breast-feed you? Because mine DOESN’T REMEMBER, which to me is really emblematic of the way she was my whole life! She barely noticed anything, good or bad! I’ve been simply starved for love since before forever!”..

On top of it, at first I thought I was having all these “revelations” but after three weeks I’m realizing I had the exact same ones twenty years ago, ten years ago, AND five years ago.  The same stuff just cycles round again and again…which is not to say it’s irrelevant or doesn’t need working on, only that when I think NOW I’ve really gotten to the bottom of things; NOW I’m going to change EVERYTHING, now I’m finally going to GET WELL…probably not.

OUR LADY OF SOLITUDE
PALM SPRINGS, CA

Not a moment too soon, I had a couple of visitors Sunday. Yes indeedy, two delightful postulants from the Daughters of St. Paul, Theresa and Cheryl, made their way from L.A.–no small feat considering Sunday was the L.A. Marathon–out to my temporary abode.

I cleaned the bathroom, put away my tottering piles of books, Swiffered, and reminded myself five hundred or so times not to swear.

These two young gals (30 and 32) did my heart no end of good. They’re based in St. Louis and have been in L.A. for a couple of weeks taking classes. “The Daughters of St. Paul are consecrated women who communicate Christ’s love to all people using all forms of media” and there were no flies on these two. Both of them had been web developers (they spoke lovingly of “code”) in their former lives, and Cheryl was toting the one communal ipad (in a very smart red leather case purchased (I pried) at Big Lots).

They are postulants, i.e. undergoing a two-year initial discernment process. I asked how they had come to hear the call, and over salmon and salad and basmati rice I saw all over again how alike we are, we humans. We all want to feel useful, we all want to make a difference, we all want to put our talents to work, we all want to know how to give and receive love, and we all feel we’re falling short.

Such joy, such faith, such freshness, such energy, such youth–how good they were to make the trek on what I suspect was their one afternoon off. Theresa has a blog called Pursued by Truth–you might want to check it out. “We’ll pray for you!,” they said, taking their leave.

Let’s pray for them, too.

GONE-BY RUSSIAN KALE I COULD NOT BEAR TO THROW OUT
SO PUT IN A VASE TO CONTEMPLATE FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS
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EGYPT

As you may or may not know, I’m in Palm Springs for the month. I brought a pile of library books with me and one of the things I’ve done here is pore over the incredible photographs in The Treasures of Tutankhamun and the Egyptian Museum of Cairo. I have been simply astounded by the exquisite carvings, bas-reliefs, sculpture, death masks, furniture, and jewelry. I mean, really, you look at them and then you look at, say, Jeff Koons, and think What happened to us?

The photographs below don’t do justice to the ones (by Araldo de Luca) in the book, but these are just of the few of the many items that grabbed me.

THE LECTOR-PRIEST KAAPER,
KNOWN AS “THE VILLAGE MAYOR”
SYCAMORE
5TH DYNASTY, USERKAF’S REIGN 2465-2458 BC
DECORATIVE PANEL
LIMESTONE AND FAIENCE
3rd DYNASTY DJOSER’S REIGN
2630-2611 BC
RAHOTEP AND NOFRET [SPOUSES]
PAINTED LIMESTONE
4TH DYNASTY, SNEFRU’S REIGN
2575-2551 B.C.
STATUETTE OF KHUFU
IVORY
4TH DYNASTY, KHUFU’S REIGN
2551-2558 B.C.
THE DWARF SENEB WITH HIS FAMILY
PAINTED LIMESTONE
LATE 5TH DYNASTY-EARLY 6TH DYNASTY
24TH-23RD CENTURY, B.C.

Now I’m reading up on mummification practices and the Egyptians’ near-worship of household cats. The alabaster jars for face cream, the gold leaf and agate bracelets…man!

Just as I was scouring kayak for flights to Cairo, a friend sent me this Los Angeles Times piece about Timothy Fenstermacher, a high school dropout who became obsessed with Egyptology and has taught himself heiroglyphics from solitary confinement (where he’d rather be than in the general population) in Tehachapi (California) State Prison.

“I am dying, Egypt, dying.”
–Marc Antony, to Cleopatra.Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare, (IV, xv, 41). 

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THE WIND

“Occasionally I hear the wind blow,
And I find that just hearing the wind blow makes it
worth
having been born.”

–Fernando Pessoa

WIND TURBINE GENERATORS,
PALM SPRINGS,
A TYPE OF WINDMILL THAT PRODUCES ELECTRICITY BY
HARNESSING THE WIND

Don’t miss Pessoa‘s The Book of Disquiet.

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LENT IN PALM SPRINGS


Palm Springs, where I’ve been holed up since late February, is one of THE strangest places ever. 


Old rich people, gay people, crazy people, Jewish people, all in a 50’s time warp, and about 130 degrees from May-September…It’s a resort, basically, with meth-lab fringes (toward which I, for one, tend)… There are restaurants here, Billy Reed’s for one, that look like Perry Como could be sitting in the adjacent red pleather banquette. Chicken pot pie, stuffed avocado, Cobb salad. “Cocktails.” 


People have no sense of time, schedule, or urgency, which is very unsettling, though in a somewhat (though only somewhat) good way after L.A.. Today, tomorrow; 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, whatever. Old guys cruising down Palm Canyon in vintage T-Birds—turquoise blue, banana yellow—with their 85-year-old boyfriends…

I had big plans for plunging headlong into my next writing project. What I’ve done instead is wound a whole ton of skeins of yarn into balls. My friend Christine, whose house I’m watching, left me an entire bag of expensive yarn, including 27 skeins of fine string-like yarn in lush colors of acid green, mauve, robin’s egg blue, and I am just not going to be able to rest, apparently, until I have rolled every last one of them into balls (otherwise the stuff gets hopelessly tangled when you try to knit). 




Though a single ball can take half an hour (and that’s if I don’t screw up, the odds of which are about 70/30), I can’t describe how satisfying I find this. You position the skein around the outside of your knees, and if you let the strands get at all slack you’re in major trouble because yarn has a will, a brain, and a mischievous streak. I could just sit there indefinitely, winding, winding, especially when combined with watching, say, a Sam Fuller film. Last night I watched The Naked Kiss—that is one weird film.

I did also knit an entire…well, actually, I seem to have devised a new article of clothing. A kind of combo scarf/cape with huge flared ends, in this case of hot pink mohair with black kitten-hair fringe, that as the thing got longer and weirder, started to scare even me. Which it turns out I can however drape around my neck, back, shoulder, or just hang down in front thereby giving an insane, Whatever-Happened-to-Baby-Jane effect.

this should come in handy during a typical 85-degree-afternoon…


I’m actually quite proud of myself. My garment contains only 8 or 10 scattered mysterious holes, and while knitting, I discovered Hammer Film Productions (Gothic British black and white horror flicks from the 60’s). 


The double feature I watched consisted of Never Take Candy from a Stranger (elderly pervert/pedophile from the town’s richest family  molests two young girls, and These Are the Damned“a socially conscious sci-fi chiller about young victims of radiation exposure” in which “a couple stumbles upon a quarantined group of mysterious children.”

In an undersea cave, fyi.

Extreme closeups that make even normal people look bathed in greasy sweat and psychotic: who could resist?


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THE PUNKS AND THE CATHOLICS: WEASEL RADIO

I’m  godmother to Lydia Ruth, one of a pair of (now 2-year-old) twin daughters of my friend Ben Foster/Weasel, founder and frontman for the punk band Screeching Weasel. Ben and his wife are both Catholic converts.

I met Ben through my brother Joe, founder and frontman of The Queers, and though I’ve never pretended to be part of the punk scene, my hat has always been off to both bands. The respect with which Ben and Joe talk about each other when neither is within earshot slays me, especially as these are guys with nary a sentimental bone in their bodies.

Last year, at SXSW, a very unfortunate incident occurred wherein a female fan jumped onstage while Screeching Weasel was playing, words were exchanged, and Ben hit her.

An uproar ensued. Ben publicly apologized. And around minute 18:45 of the below Weasel Radio podcast, he riffs about the reaction of the punk world vs. the reaction of his Catholic friends in the aftermath. Not to polarize, obviously, but I, too, have noticed that the anti-religion-on-the-grounds-that-religion-is-rigid brigade can sometimes be fanatically rigid, closed-minded, and psychologically violent themselves.

As Ben says, the Catholic paradigm is basically that of the prodigal son who trails home after squandering his inheritance in the mire, is deeply grateful to have been invited back to the table, and realizes I’m pretty much a buffoon, trying to make my way just like everyone else

Here’s the link if you want to listen on mynorthwest.com.

If you only tune in to the clip in question (again, starting at 18:45), don’t miss Screeching Weasel’s “Science of Myth” directly following!

More audio at MyNorthwest.com