On the way down to Virginia, I picked up a copy of Train's CD Save Me San Franciso. This past winter, while snowed in for a weekend in Scranton, Pennsylvania, I got Train's popular Hey, Soul Sister stuck in my head after hearing it so often playing in the background of SHOWTIME's commercials for the cable show Nurse Jackie. For weeks, it kept coming back to me..."Hey, Soul Sister, ain't that Mister, Mister on the radio, stereo, the way you move ain't fair, you know..."
As popular as Hey, Soul Sister has been all this year so far, I liked the third track of the CD even more, I Got You. The intro to the song is the first few lines of the Doobie Brothers' old 1975 song Oh, Blackwater (keep on rollin', Mississippi moon won't you keep on shinin' on me?....). The idea behind the lyrics is about a guy who feels he has been just missing the meeting with the woman he is destined to be with, and he sings this piece of Memphis-style blues hoping that singing the song Oh, Blackwater will help bring about the meeting:
The part about this woman being "the sun through my window warming my skin...." is really good writing. The lead singer has good singing diction, so you can understand the lyrics all through the song, which doesn't always happen with modern pop music. Save Me San Francisco is a good album for more reasons than Hey, Soul Sister, which is still rattling around in my brain, and is the kind of catchy tune that usually does that to almost everybody.
Well, I made it to Arlington, Virginia at about 3:00 PM after a late start from Winchester, Virginia. I passed the Upperville, Virginia horseshow arena where one year going east on US 50 I actually stopped to watch some of the English riders put their horses through their routines. Arlington keeps changing, so it is hard to use landmarks to get to where I have to stay for the training session. There is a supermarket right behind the hotel, so I did a little shopping for some items for the hotel fridge. While heading for the frozen foods section, there were wines on display which is not permitted in Pennsylvania. I was hoping for some Blandy's Madeira, which is one of the few wines I enjoy, especially the drier Blandy's Rainwater, which is good with a slice of cheddar, but there was a bottle of Taylor's Madeira available. I decided to try it, although most domestic Madeiras, that use grapes other than those grown on the Atlantic (Portugese) island of Madeira, do not usually taste like Madeira. They usually don't look like Madeira, either. There is a California Madeira, that is probably used for cooking mostly, that is amber in color rather than red. That wine should be used for cooking. The Taylor Madeira is almost the same quality of a drier Madeira as Blandy's Rainwater. If I had had more confidence, I would have bought some cheddar to have with it. Taylor is a New York winery, growing all of their grapes in that state in the Finger Lakes region. Taylor's Madeira is a very good replacement for Blandy's Rainwater, which does use actual Madeira grapes. I'll have to pick up some cheddar tomorrow.
Driving to Winchester, Virginia tonight for the first phase of a trip to a training session in Arlington, Virginia, I found myself getting distracted by an old memory I hadn't remembered in about ten or fifteen years. I was helping to clean up a reception hall after a wedding when I walked into a room where two people were in the middle of discussing why they didn't like me. When they realized that, not only had someone walked in on them, but it was the subject of their conversation, one of the pair tried to tell me that I did not actually hear what had obviously been said. I guess that was an invitation to self-delude in order to extricate themselves, but instead I replied to the effect, "Well, don't worry about it because you have a right to not like me and there is no way for me to force you to change your minds." Anyway, for some reason I remembered this while driving around, and basically quizzed myself about how I would react to encounter one of them today. I really wasn't sure. Part of me wanted to respond with something mildly negative, such as wondering aloud why they would bother with someone they found loathsome before, but then something sprang into my mind as if from nowhere: "You are not responsible for how someone treats you. You are only responsible for how you treat them." So, I guess my response will be to treat either one of them with courtesy and politeness. I admit that this wasn't my FIRST idea, and I really don't think it came from inside me, but it struck me as so completely true, yet still simple, it was obviously the best of the two choices. Since this wasn't my idea, those of you reading it should have some degree of confidence that it is the wisest solution to this social puzzle.
Saint Joseph Parish here in Oil City displayed some Sunday bulletins from the other Oil City parishes in the breezeway entrance to the church. I took one from both Saint Joseph and Our Lady Help of Christians as I have never attended Mass at the latter church. The bulletin of Our Lady Help of Christians contained an article about a kind of quiz that Charles Schulz came up with when he was writing and drawing the Peanuts comic strip. Mr. Schulz asked us to name such people as the last five winners of the Heisman Trophy, ten people who won the Nobel Prize, the last half-dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress, and other famous people who have won coveted awards. The point is, without looking these award winners up in some book or on some Web site, most of us couldn't do it. As the bulletin put it, "Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners."
Next, Mr. Schulz asked us to name such people as, "a few teachers who aided your journey through school, three friends who have helped you through a difficult time, five people who taught you something worthwhile, and five people you enjoy spending time with."
"The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are simply the ones who care the most."
There is an article and poll on the "Popeater" site concerning historically based films and television events and asking if there should be any fictional elements added to the scripts. The article focused on the recent HBO mini-series The Pacific, which I viewed during its March-to-May run of ten episodes. There were some liberties taken in the stories surrounding three actual Marines, Eugene B. "Sledgehammer" Sledge, Robert "Lucky" Leckie, and John "Manila John" Basilone, a Medal of Honor winner. Having read Sledge's book, With the Old Breed, I was impressed with the detail with which he described his life in the WWII Marines, from shortly before enlisting to the end of the war. The part about how Sledge came to enlist in the Marines, when he signed up for officer training in college and had attended a military academy prior to college, was completely done for some kind of dramatic effect. His family doctor father did not keep Sledge back from enlisting because of a heart murmur, as depicted in the mini-series. Sledge was torn about sitting out the war in officer training and the distraction led to falling progress in school, so he enlisted.
Once through with boot camp, the mini-series has Sledge receiving an antique Colt .45 revolver from his father to take with him into combat. In fact, the costumers even had Sledge secure the sidearm with a lanyard during the Okinawa campaign and use the weapon to kill a Japanese officer. Eugene Sledge provided a complete inventory of all his webbing equipment in With the Old Breed when he prepared to board the Amtrac to land on Peleliu in September 1944. There was no mention of such a revolver on his pistol belt. Sledge wasn't even issued a GI Colt Model 1911 A1 pistol until Okinawa, or he acquired one by means other than being issued the piece, such as picking one out of a salvage pile on Peleliu or at Pavuvu after the Peleliu campaign. Sledge merely states that he had one by Okinawa. Previously, Sledge had to borrow his mortar crew leader "Snafu's" Colt while on night watch on Peleliu. The casual way in which Sledge mentioned the Colt on Okinawa indicates that he was issued the piece.
Also during the series, Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie were shown having a conversation on the island of Pavuvu just before the Peleliu landing. There is no evidence that the two Marines ever met, but it is possible, given the small size of Pavuvu, but neither man thought enough of any possible meeting to document it. Where they came up with Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone bedding an actual Hollywood starlet, I do not know as there has been no time to research it.
While questions about showing events and people from history with accuracy in films and on television are diverting, there is something for those interested in such accuracy to consider. HBO's The Pacific led me to purchase Eugene Sledge's book from a small shop in Philadelphia's Suburban Station. It also led to another printing of that book, along with Robert Leckie's Helmet for my Pillow. If such movies and television mini-series cause at least some viewers to go out and buy such books, or get them from the library, and read the actual stories, then those film and television productions have performed a service in rekindling interest in such historical events and the individuals who lived through them. I still think the actual versions of those events are more interesting, however.
Another bird I frequently encountered over the years is the killdeer, a member of the Plover family of birds. The bird is named for its call, which sounds like a high-pitched version of "kill-deer! kill-deer!" This is the only sound I ever heard killdeer make. Killdeer rarely fly at great heights, or for very far, when they are settled into an area for the warm seasons. Their flights are usually low-level, swooping trips covering a few yards while they make their patented call. The birds might fly up into trees for the night, like wild turkeys, but I never saw them do that. I used to run into killdeer in a field behind Parker Elementary school when running on a dirt bike and go-kart track. The killdeer prefer racing along the ground with their feet moving in rapid motion, which led me to nickname them "roadrunners." A killdeer or two would race along in front of me on the track until I would get close to them, which would make the birds take off on a short flight to another point on the track further away from me. The birds would start their trotting runs again after the getaway flight. There were a lot of killdeer in that field, and the birds were more of a harbinger of spring for me than the robins.
The baseball season is about half over, so it is time for the 2010 All-Star Game. The Pittsburgh Pirates are back in last place in the Central Division of the National League, but all the experts claim that the prospects they have in the minor leagues will make for a better future for the team. In the meantime, the team keeps losing, but a lot of the losses are by one run, despite the Pirates having one of the National League's worst pitching and hitting records this season. Usually, a lot of one-run losses mean there is a need for another short relief pitcher to protect leads late in the game. The bullpen has been one of the bright spots for the Pirates this season, but they are getting overworked. There aren't too many short relief pitchers available to "close" games, which is why short relievers are called "Closers." Well, when you really need a "Closer," there is only one person to call on the bullpen phone:
It wasn't just updating and maintaining the Tavern that went on hold for a few years while dealing with a family crisis. Back in my old days, I would fish a lot more than the past four years or so. There just wasn't enough time, so I probably got out maybe four or five times in that period, but while at work in certain places, I would check out the local waters. One place was in Franklin, Pennsylvania, about eight miles from my apartment where a "client" is located on a high bank of French Creek in Venango County. Pennsylvania has at least two French Creeks, one in Venango County and the other in Chester County. I've fished both of them for smallmouth bass, usually with a fly rod. A few years ago, I did an audit at this "client's" place of business, and took breaks checking out the creek. The water is pretty clean now, so you can see what is moving around in there, and the rocks on the bottom unless there is a drop-off to a "cut" or hole in the creek bed. There's a really built up island in about the middle of the creek, covered with trees and thick ferns. I call it "Turtle Island," as leatherbacks and snappers like to sun themselves on the shore of the island. In the rocky channel between the "client's" parking lot and the island is a drop off to a deep "cut." You can't wade that cut. It is too deep. The creek runs slower than it does on the other side of the island, and low-hanging trees make shady spots. I saw it as bass country, and sure enough some of the torpedo-shaped fish were cruising around that channel. The clincher to the fish being bass, beside their sleek shape, were the forked black tails. I promised myself to try the place for some fly fishing one day.
Yesterday was my first shot at them. I used the flyrod exclusively, and couldn't get any of the bass to rise to a stone fly, a hellgrammite fly, or a popping bug. I saw lots of them, including one that had to go between sixteen and eighteen inches, cruising back and forth. The bass looked like they were hunting as they cruised, but they were looking under the surface, maybe because of the recent hot weather. So, today was another attempt, but this time with the spinning gear as well as the flyrod, and a box of plastic grubs. A plastic grub is like a sawed-off worm with a flat tail and plump body. The flat tail gives a good wriggling motion. I like dark purple ones best, but only had some old dark green ones. After about four casts and retrieves of a grub, I got a big hit. It was a smallmouth, running, jumping, and tail-walking. It was hooked clean and took no effort to release it. The bass was about fourteen inches long. It swam away fast after being released. The very next cast landed a bass about nine inches long that gave similar combat. This one wouldn't let me grab it by the lower lip to immobilize it, so I had to dunk my hand in water to hold its body in order to not take off any of the fish's protective mucous coating. That bass also swam off. A few casts later, brought another medium sized smallmouth along with a good fight. Another bass hit the grub so hard, and with a big water splash, that it stripped the lure right off the hook. Yet another jumped, shook itself, and threw the hook, but the plastic grub stayed on the hook this time. The only action after losing the two bass were small bass, maybe last year's hatch, tugging at the grub's tail, and the time a school of bass warily followed the grub, looking a lot like a school of sharks scoping out something in the water.
The smallmouth, and its cousin, the largemouth bass, are both members of the sunfish family, like bluegills and rock bass (aka "redeyes"). They are serious and efficient predators, and you can never tell whether it is best to retrieve a spinning lure fast, so the bass can't think about whether or not to strike, or fish the lure slowly. It depends on their mood and the water temperature. Sometimes they hit a lure because they don't like it. A bass sees something that makes it mad, and the only way to get rid of it is to eat it. The smallmouth is the best fighter, and usually hits a fast lure. Smallmouths like moving waters like rivers and streams and are very strong swimmers as a result. When the weather is right, they like to hit flies, especially a stone fly, hellgrammite, or muddler.
There's been a lot of media lately about all kinds of professional athletes gone bad. It is almost like the one guy I know who keeps saying that all of the Steelers football team is "corrupt" and "a bunch of criminals." That coming from someone who cheats on his wife and tried his hand at penny ante extortion threats. Well, I suppose those behaviors make him a good judge on who is "corrupt" and "a bunch of criminals." Yes, there are some unbalanced, law-breaking, and boorish football players with an inflated sense of entitlement out there. I won't mention any names, but it is the loutish ones about whom the national media like to report. The local media sometimes tell the rest of the story.
In today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Sports, reporter Scott Brown presented an article entitled Lifting Spirits, about Pittsburgh Steelers Casey Hampton, Troy Polamalu, and Heath Miller befriending a young girl suffering from Ewing's sarcoma, a form of bone and tissue cancer that afflicts mostly children. The girl was Heather Miller of Osterburg, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. During a stay at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, Heather met Steeler safety Troy Polamalu, who took an immediate liking to the girl. Heather told Polamalu that she was going to ask the Make-A-Wish Foundation to arrange for her to spend a day with Polamalu. The safety told Heather that she already had him for that day, so Heather told Troy Polamalu that she wanted to meet nose tackle Casey Hampton, too. Heather got her wish granted when she spent a day at the Steeler's training camp in 2009. Casey Hampton carefully lifted the girl to his shoulder and carried her around. Right before a major surgery, Polamalu arranged to have a special present sent to Heather, the jersey he wore when he scored the touchdown that clinched the Steeler's trip to their last Super Bowl, and Casey Hampton hosted the entire Miller family in his personal box at Heinz Field for a 2009 season football game.
Heather Miller passed away in January 2009. Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton, Heath Miller, and members of the Steeler's management team drove to her funeral. All three of the Steelers remain close to the Miller family today. Said Casey Hampton, "It gives me a lot of strength just thinking about the things she went through and how she always had a smile on her face."
Just a small look at the whole story of how some professional athletes are not out acting out behaviors that keep litigation attorneys well paid and police and District Attorneys busy.
To get a look at Scott Brown's entire article, and some fine photos from the Miller family, click the link below:
Since I posted about my favorite bird, the catbird, I thought to lay off the feathered set for awhile, but I observed a bluejay at the Danville rest area on Interstate 80's west bound lane this afternoon while driving home from the Montage Mountain area near Scranton. The bluejay was landing on the parking lot, picking up something long and light gold in color before flying off to the nearby woods. In a few minutes, the jay came back and took another long, light gold object in his bill and took off again. I thought, "No, he can't be eating those." I walked over to where the bird took off, and sure enough, someone had spilled french fries on the macadam. Some of the potato treats were already crushed by cars. I think someone bought them from "the Clown" somewhere. The bluejay was flying into the woods to eat his find of french fries, one at a time. I have never seen any bird eating those before, even the bluejay's cousins, the carrion-eating crows. Crows, magpies, and jays are all corvids. Bluejays love acorns, which are its favorite food. Sometimes the birds bury acorns and forget where the acorns were buried. A lot of oak trees get planted that way. The Audubon Society should make them all honorary members. Bluejays make a variety of calls, some of them crow-like, its patented "jay-jay-jay" call, and even some warbling and gobbling sounds, like a small turkey, when fighting over a place at a bird feeder full of sunflower seeds. The gobbling might be the result of bluejays encountering more wild turkeys, a bird experiencing population growth in the Northeast U.S. Like mockingbirds, jays are good impressionists, and some ornithologists think the bluejay might be able to imitate human speech like parrots. Those ornithologists might be right as earlier today I observed two crows in a dust-up with two unidentified songbirds outside the office building of my latest "client." The songbirds would chase and divebomb the crows, with the crows making a call that sounded suspiciously like a human exclaiming, "Uh-oh!"
Despite the topknot of feathers, bluejays are not direct kin of cardinals. Bluejays are a distant part of the crow family. Cardinals are finches. When at rest or eating, the bluejay's cowlick flattens out.
I used to see a lot of catbirds growing up. They used to like to visit a wild berry bush that grew along the old dirt "back hill" road that ran from the Parker Bluff to the downtown, or "The Flat" along the Allegheny River. I liked their blue-gray color and the cat-like mewing call, which now I think was a catbird impression of a squirrel's bark as I caught myself once misidentifying a gray squirrel as a catbird. One of the mockingbird family, the catbird likes to imitate other birds and animals, taking their sounds and making their own calls out of them. Catbirds are something like living recording studios where sounds are altered, mixed and re-mixed, until a variety of other creatures' noises become the catbird's. There was one recording of a mockingbird using the sound of a digital alarm clock pinging, but I'm not sure catbirds are that skilled. They like tangles of brush and small trees, although I saw my first one in many years perched on a rail in my carport last summer.
Go to the Cornell University's Ornithology Lab Web site and you can hear some recordings of catbirds, including the "mew" that gave the bird its name.
One evening a representative from Greenpeace, a pleasant and earnest young woman, struck up a conversation with me on Broad Street, Philadelphia during my visit there. I complimented Greenpeace for their work at eliminating whaling, especially after discovering that one of the remaining purposes of whaling is to get whale meat, which is considered a delicacy. It seems as soon as some creature gets on the endangered species list, there is someone who has to make a buck promoting the meat of the endangered as being "unique." If tabby cats were considered endangered, you would have to keep an eye on "Fluffy," I suppose, lest the pet wind up on the forbidden menu in some "endangered species" speakeasy. I also learned there are morons who think it is a good idea to raise cattle in the jungle, which is like playing football on Broadway during rush hour. It's a good thing minds like that don't work on foreign policy. Oh, I forgot, maybe they do.
This reminds me of how we almost trapped beaver into extinction because some dandies liked to wear beaver hats. Now that's what I need on my head when it's eighty degrees outside--a beaver. Pennsylvania Magazine had an article this month about the ill-fated Passenger Pigeon, which used to fill the skies in states east of the Mississippi until they were hunted out of existence. There were some attempts to save the Passenger Pigeon, but they were too little and too late. The last two recorded Passenger Pigeons in existence were stuffed and mounted, which I guess is at least a kind of "conservation."
At least we are starting to get conservation right, at least to a degree.
I've been spending this working week in central Philadelphia for a little "continuing professional education." There's a small group of us, about forty in all from all over the country, and we are done just before noon tomorrow. The training group put us up in the Hyatt-at-the-Bellevue, or the old Bellevue-Stratford Hotel on Broad Street. City Hall is just to the west of us, and the theater district, with the Rittenhouse and other fine theaters, is just below. On Tuesday, the training group took us all down to Independence Mall to see the historic sites there. A group from PS 50 in New York City was there, and they were a fine bunch of kids who really knew their history, too. When a tour guide told the class that handling the Liberty Bell was no longer permitted because of something an adult did one student said, "Big people ruin everything." Sometimes they do! I'll put up some of the photos I took with a Blackberry as soon as I get home. There were several graduations here in the city this week, with many girls still in robes and mortarboards accompanied by families and friends.
I was last in the old Bellevue-Stratford in February 1995. There was another continuing education group in the Ballroom there before Hyatt took over the historic place. I have to get packed to get out of here first thing in the morning.
Still catching up at the Oil City residence from my two years of just dropping in for a few hours most weekends to pick up the mail, take care of clothes packing, move a little dust around, and back out again. I finally defrosted my (landlord's) refrigerator after...well, I guess two years. It would have taken a lot longer, but Claudia Kehl quick shipped her favorite ice axe to me. This is the ice axe Claudia always uses whenever she gets the notion to climb The Matterhorn in her home country, Switzerland. Thanks to Claudia's axe, it only took a few hours to break through the ice and get the refrigerator back on line again. Now, I can make more than just one ice cube at at time! Thanks, Claudia! I'll get the ice axe back to you in a couple of days. Send me a wave when you climb back up there again.
Getting older can really provide a rich vein of humor. Take the typical double standard that some men have about married guys fooling around being a sign of prowess, while finding it a crime for married women to do likewise (unless a married woman has found one of them attractive). One guy I know was telling me that his former boss had "probably scored" with the new female manager at his workplace right before his boss retired. Now, I know that female manager, and I knew my friend's retired boss. The female manager is at least twenty years younger than my friend's boss, and is definitely healthier and more athletic looking. I passed the whole thing off as my friend wanting it all to be true because there would be hope for him someday. It was hard to burst the bubble, but when you get such a great set-up for a rebound, you have to take it. I sighed and said, "Yeah, she probably really went for your old boss if she is attracted to Colonel Sanders having a bad hangover."
Growing up in Parker, Pennsylvania, I don't remember seeing, or more importantly, hearing the species of woodpecker depicted above. I saw Redheaded Woodpeckers, a Pileated Woodpecker, and lots of Flickers, a brown, ground nesting woodpecker. I never did see the Red-Bellied Woodpecker when I was growing up. In the spring of 2008, I didn't initially see the bird, but heard its call, which sounded like one of those jungle bird sounds you hear on the soundtrack of a Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movie. Cornell University's Ornithology Department's Web site has a few recordings of this woodpecker's call. I had to follow the sound that Sunday morning in spring of 2008 to find that a woodpecker was making that haunting sound. After awhile, the woodpecker would make two quick calls and then drum twice on the tree. Across the ravine that divides two sections of Parker's bluff, another woodpecker made the same call, followed by two taps on its tree. This went on for some minutes until the two birds stopped this form of communication.
While watching after my mother's house during 2008 and 2009, I kept the birdfeeder full, and a couple of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers would eat there. One would swoop down from the diseased maple tree that I had to pay to get removed from the lawn after it dropped a limb on Lincoln Street. The tree man preserved a Red-Bellied Woodpecker's hole in one of the large branches, and I used the branch as a rack for leaf rakes and a couple of brooms by not removing the smaller limbs from the branch.
These woodpeckers, and their strange calls, remain a strong memory of those two years.
In 2002, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection. Actually, it wasn't the bacterial infection the doctors thought it was, but among the antibiotics they prescribed was a Cipro derivative called Levaquin. One night, after taking the Levaquin, I fell asleep on the living room couch. It was lights out until I woke up thrashing around and yelling from the "mother of all nightmates." It was so vivid that it is still in my memory like it happened the night before today.
I was standing on a street corner in some city. It was late at night, and I was wondering what I was doing there when there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see a young blonde woman. She looked like Kate Hudson, so, when she suggested, "There is someone you should meet," I immediately replied, "Sure!"
We were instantly inside a scruffy looking bar with few patrons around. There was one short looking man sitting on a bar stool with his back to us. His suit looked a bit rumpled, as if he put in a hard day or had a problem with the dry cleaner. The blonde escorted me up to the man's barstool. She leaned over to whisper something in his ear, coming up with a bright smile on her face.
"I want you to meet the Antichrist," she announced cheerfully, her face still radiant.
I recoiled as the man spun the barstool to face me. He looked like...like...Danny Devito! He leered up at me, rubbing his hands with glee as he sent me the evil chuckle I had heard hundreds of times before from Louis dePalma on Taxi: "Heh! Heh! Heh!"
After I came to all I could say was, "Oh, @#*!!" and tried to go back to sleep again with a groan.
A little research informed me that Cipro can cause vivid nightmares. No kidding! Later, I found out that people in the White House were taking Cipro back in 2002 to make sure they didn't get anthrax after the terrorist attacks.
Everything made sense to me after that.
It still does.
Well, someone had to do it again. They had to use the famous Parable of the Talents to make a point about the economy and how Jesus Christ was some kind of laissez faire capitalist. Now, don't get me wrong. I think free market economics is a very good thing. Free markets can generate a lot of wealth for a society, and it takes a lot of wealth to perform a lot of charitable works, but such a system can have draw backs to society as well, if it is not tempered with a strong moral conscience among the people. Aristotle discussed a Greek city state that practiced that form of economy in his Rhetoric and Politics when he discoursed on Ways and Means. That city state became so intoxicated by material wealth that they became decadent and the society collapsed, but that did not have to happen to them if they had put material wealth in its proper place. The problem with using Jesus' parable in this manner is, He wasn't talking about what kind of economy He thought we should have. Jesus used parables to make people think about what He was really talking about. As Jesus pointed out to one of his disciples, He could have just spoon fed his teachings to everyone, but He didn't.
For those who don't know what the Parable of the Talents was about, a wealthy guy was going on some kind of trip, and he gave a number of coins, called talents, to each of three servants, telling them to invest the coins wisely and give him a return. Two of them were able to give the weathy guy more talents than what he originally gave them. One servant buried his in the ground and gave it back to the wealthy guy. The wealthy guy rewarded the servants who made profits, but fired the servant who buried his talent in the ground. Jesus isn't saying that profits are always good, or anything like that. Conversely, Jesus wasn't saying profits are always BAD. The profits, and lack of a profit, were just analogies to teach a lesson. What the different servants did with the coins they were given was a vehicle to teach a lesson about spiritual life. Basically, Jesus was telling us not to "hide our light under a bushel" again, as hiding a light under a bushel is not unlike burying a coin in the ground and not putting that coin to work making more coins. A person who understands what God expects of him has a greater responsibility for how he lives his life than one who has been able to gain little of that kind of knowledge. If he knows his duty to God and his fellow human beings, he is to act as if he does. He is to work to grow spiritually even more, just as the other servants made their coins grow rather than doing nothing, which is what the servant who buried his coin did: nothing. We have been given life to work at perfecting our true natures, not to take it easy because the boss isn't around, or we can't see the boss.
There are other lessons to be learned, such as not stealing, such as not doing the work the boss told us to do, but still expecting to be paid. So, there is a lesson about simple honesty and respecting the property of others, and there are other lessons as well, but these are enough for this space and we already covered the most important one.
This past Sunday, I was looking forward to being able to enjoy most of this Sunday at home. Lately, my local churches of choice have been Assumption for Saturday vigil Mass, but only the day before I had to travel for work, and Saint Joseph, which is on top of the hill that overlooks North Side, Oil City. Since I didn't have to travel, the Sunday Mass at 10:15 AM was chosen. What I didn't know was a group of youngsters were going to have their first communions at that service. The first clue was the girl in the ornate white dress and veil entering the side door of the church with her parents at about 9:30 that morning in a light rain. Well, it turned out that the entire First Communion Class for this service were girls. Father Swoger took them to the baptismal font at the beginning of the Mass to have them refresh the experience of their baptisms, while reminding each girl of the date of her baptism. Many were baptized on different dates in May, and one on a New Year's Eve. After different members of the class took care of Bible readings, intercessions during prayers, and taking the gifts up to the altar, the girls all took their first communion before the rest of the congregation. After Mass was over, they went up the altar steps, and accompanied by a woman from the choir playing an accoustic guitar, sang a song that included some choreographed moves. The flash bulbs were popping all through the song as parents, grandparents, and other friends and relatives captured that moment of the girls' lives. I couldn't hear the lyrics very well where I was sitting, but the song really helped brighten up the day. The girls got a long round of applause, and when we all stepped outside, it had stopped raining and the sun was coming out. The only sad note for the entire morning was Father Swoger announcing that this would be his last First Communion Class, so his retirement is coming soon.
So, thanks for a pleasant Sunday morning Mass, Lindsey, Kelsey, Allison, Lily, Maggie, and Tessa, and best wishes for your continuing journey of faith.
When you travel a lot you have a greater probability of forgetting to pack something. Maybe it's a razor, toothbrush, or socks. Socks are typically what I forget to pack, and usually wind up buying a working week's worth of socks. I could open a sock store after forgetting to pack the things twice, or so, each year for the past twenty years. This weekend I forgot to pack something bigger: dress shirts. This was a first-time thing. I always remembered dress shirts before this. Naturally, I didn't find out that I hadn't packed dress shirts until ten o'clock Sunday night (April 25th) with home about 320 miles away. It was too late to try buying dress shirts at that time of night, so I cobbled something together to wear into the city, black blazer, dark gray slacks, and a (get this) green plaid shirt with a button-down collar. I couldn't use any of the ties I packed because of the plaid shirt. On the train ride into the city I wasn't too self-conscious as I thought I looked like most of the people appeared to feel on Monday morning. They would probably think the green plaid shirt was just an after effect of a lost weekend.
There was an upscale men's store not far from where I was working, but I imagined how the sales people would react to seeing me in this patchwork get-up with no tie. I thought about the looks of disdain, or even sympathy, I might get, something like, "I say! This bedraggled looking chap must be confused. Surely he is looking for a Sears or K-Mart," or "Poor fellow! I wonder how long he has been homeless? Oh, dear, hope I have something smaller than a ten in my wallet to give him."
I went to a Men's Warehouse sale and bought two dress shirts and a solid blue tie. "Warehouse," now that's a name for a men's clothing store. All they need are some brass rails and some spitoons and we'd feel right at home. I felt much better after changing in the men's room back at work. Now that I have two more dress shirts, I wonder how many days longer I can wait before doing the laundry again?
A few weeks ago, I went to replace the winter wreath on my apartment door with the old spring wreath my late mother used to put on the old family homestead's front door, but couldn't find it. Wanting to keep up with the tradition just like when I took care of the old place from 2007 until 2009, I took a drive up to the Cranberry Mall to find a new spring wreath. Taking a shortcut through the JC Penney store, I was close to the exit when I saw a girl, who looked to be between twelve and thirteen years old, perusing a rack of what girls call "tops," pullover shirts. Now, my good friend Buffy gave birth to her daugher, Caitlin, in 1996, and would be in the shopping girl's age group. I hadn't seen Caitlin since encountering Buffy pushing the baby girl in a stroller near the checkout aisles in the now closed BiLo supermarket in Seneca that same year, but the girl made me think of Caitlin for some reason. It was like someone was saying in my mind, "That girl is Buffy's daughter, Caitlin." Rather than blurting out, "Caitlin? Is that you? Is your mom here?" I started looking around the nearby racks in the Juniors Department for Buffy. Sure enough, Buffy was looking at some fashions on another rack next to the exit about twenty feet away.
"BUFFY!" I called to her.
"Hi," she said with her usual smile. It had been over a year since I last ran into Buffy in the mall while she was having lunch with one of her co-workers at a local physician's office. After some catching up conversation, the girl who was shopping the tops rack appeared at Buffy's side. "Here's someone you should meet," Buffy announced.
"You must be Caitlin," I said trying to feign surprise, "the last time I saw you was when your mom was pushing you through the BiLo in a stroller." I went on to tell Caitlin that her mother was only about five years older than Caitlin was right now when I first met her.
Buffy laughed. "Caitlin can't believe I was ever that young."
Actually, Buffy was wearing her senior class t-shirt that day in 1992 or 1993 when I first met her. The t-shirt displayed the names of everyone in that class, and I asked the girl, who was working the counter at the mall's Cranberry Snacks, which name was hers. She smiled and pointed at "Buffy." She was 17 or 18 on that day, and, since then, has graduated, gotten married, and is now the mother of two, Caitlin being the first. How did I get the notion that the teenage girl looking through the tops rack was Caitlin, whom I haven't seen since she was only a few months old? All I can think of is she was giving off "Buffy Vibes," or there was something to what the Master Po character on the old Kung Fu series once told Kwai Chang Caine about how we can immediately connect with some people rather than others. The soul does this, and the soul isn't something of matter, time, or space.