America, America

Two small things.

First, I was in Ireland on July 4, Independence Day. (American Independence Day, obviously, as opposed to the Poblacht na hÉireann declared on April 24, 1916, although that one didn’t work out quite as well as our own experience in 1776.) I had two separate kind folks in Ireland wish me a happy day. Otherwise, it was nice to be away from the craziness that is our neighborhood back home, when the local fireworks start just before dark and go on for hours & hours. Terrifying.

In contrast, I was walking home from ballet last night, along East Capitol Street, Lincoln Park. Right there at the corner of East Cap and 12th (or was it Kentucky?) was a small flag hanging on an iron fence. Or, maybe more accurate to say that it was leaning against the fence. It maybe had been planted in the ground there, on the corner, just inside someone’s yard. But now it had tilted over, no longer planted, and the flag itself was touching the ground. And that bothered me.

Funny. I’m a big believer in free speech and your right to burn the flag if you want. But a flag, even a little one, touching the ground, just bugs me. Bugs me too when the US flag is hung vertically and the canton is to the upper right rather than the (perhaps counter-intuitive) upper left. But bugs me way more having the flag touching the ground.

So of course I stepped right on over and propped it back up. Had to do it.

Sense of Doom

We had this training at work today for the safety wardens. Red Cross came in and trained us in CPR and first aid. Some lecture, some book reading, test taking, practicing on the CPR dummies. And a number of videos on a DVD. And in one of the videos, in a part about first aid and sudden illness, this poor girl gets stung by a bee. Her mom goes off to get the epi pen and call 911. Meanwhile, girl goes to sit down, and an on-screen graphic lists the symptoms of anaphylactic shock. One of the symptoms is:

  • A Sense of Doom

And I thought, wait, that’s not normal? Doesn’t everyone just generally have a sense of doom all the time?

What? No?

Oh, apparently that’s only me?

I noticed there was a fly in the refrigerator

I was grabbing a beer or a soda or whatever and saw a black flash out of the corner of my eye. It was a fly. He landed on the light bulb at the top. I waved my hand at him, to get him to fly out, but he just flew around inside the fridge, not coming out.

“Come on out there, buddy,” I said, waving my hand around some more. Dawn, from the living room, asked me what I was doing, so I explained.

“You’re talking to the fly?” she asked.

Well, of course I was talking to him, I told her. It’s a fly. He can’t read my mind.



We made it to Dublin. Dawn was able to sleep a bit on the plane; I couldn’t, no, not at all. Got through passport control and customs at Dublin airport without incident. Took the 748 bus from the airport to Heuston train station, where now we sit waiting for a train in a couple of hours to Westport.

I’m a tad cranky about my useless cell phone here. Seems like it’ll work just fine as a phone. But all of the work I did setting up Facebook status updates and blog posts by phone was all for naught. The Facebook status is an SMS to like 34567 or somesuch. Doesn’t work in Ireland. And the blog posts are picture message sent to Flickr, and, wouldn’t you know it, I can’t send picture messages in Ireland either.

So I’m standing at an Internet kiosk in the train station. Costs €1 for ten minutes. Some kid just bumped into me. I’ll try to find similar Internet chances for updates. But, just so you know, we’re here and alive and happy.

First Post-Recital Ballet Class

I’m awfully late to arrive, so they’re already done with the pliés and tendus. I’m just in time for dégagés, however, not a bad way to start, except that Ms. Jessica is feeling ambitious and throws some sort of novel combination of dégagés at us. No mere en croix this time. Something decidedly more complex involving changing to the inside leg on the third beat front and back but not sides. I offer that it’s based on some sort of factors of the square root of two, which joke the old hands have heard too many times by now, I’m maybe starting to realize. But, when confused, just throw out whatever you’re doing, in this case dégagés, pretty much randomly and hope for the best. Then for some weird reason on side two I suddenly grok the pattern and am wickedly pleased when Ms. J out in the center screws it up and still I confidently continue doing it right.

What with my late arrival I’m not in my usual spot by the window, but rather with Renee over at the tall girl bar. You know, the one where Karen and Ayanna would be if they were here. For the stretch I’m sorely out of luck, since there’s only the high bar and no low whatsoever. Is why it’s the tall girl bar. I scurry over to the other side of the studio, where there’s sensibly both the high and low bars. I squeeze in front of Jessica R., and for the first time I notice that she has some sort of wild reverse jujitsu move on the switch from second to arabesque. Apparently twisting her foot around in contact with the bar gives her the willies, so she prefers to twist the rest of her whole being around instead. It’s a nifty trick.

Out center it feels very strange not to be rehearsing the recital piece after so many months. Instead Ms. J’s got even more tricks up her sleeve. For the waltz pattern, we begin with a pas de cheval into a pas de bourrée. Okay, cool. But then after a balancé one way, we definitely do not balance the balancé with a balancé to the other side; rather, it’s a chassé. It feels positively alien. We’re supposed to follow the chassé with another pas de bourrée into fourth for the pirouette. I’ve been getting pretty good pirouette action lately, holding up in relevé coupé much better lately for some reason, even if my turnout is still for shit. But that’s hitching up from a static fourth in my own good damn time. Coming at it from a crazy unbalanced chassé throws me right the hell off and I’m useless.

Similar too is the entrechat quatre that she wants us to start doing on a more regular basis. I’ve had two (later made into three) in my pas de deux with Dawn that I’d been working on for some months now, so I’m initially pleased that I’m going to be ahead of the curve for once. But again, I don’t get to just go right into it, or even start from a nice solid assemblé like from the piece. It’s instead mixed in between two changements and an échappé. I can’t get my brain and feet to work together to save my life. Help!

Finally, going into the corners, we go across the floor in piqué turns. Puke-y turns I declare them. Ms. Jessica tells me to not shoot my tendu out as far, as I’m then never getting straight up over the leg in relevé in the turn. I try going smaller and it works fairly well, as I faintly hear Dawn calling out to me to spot with each turn. It’s something of a wife’s prerogative, I suppose. I still complain about it though.

Need I Know More? No.

Years ago I saw a news headline:

Bjork’s mother ends hunger strike

And I really didn’t want to know anymore. Just felt like that was enough. Sure, it could have been some other Bjork, but I assumed it was the weird Icelandik music chick. Many reasons why her mother would have started a hunger strike, and more reason that she could have gone off same. But, really, why dig any deeper? Just bound to disappoint. So I didn’t click through and read the story. Never did. Still don’t know really.

Saw another one today:

Eldest child in Austrian incest case wakes from coma

Let me ask you, did you know that there was some sort of Austrian incest case? (Austrian, mind you. Let’s try to keep them straight, shall we?) And that said Austrian incest case involved a minimum of three children? (If there were only two, then there’d be an elder and a younger. No eldest involved.) And of those three or more children, at least one was in a coma? (I’d think that if it were only the one child in a coma, the headline could simply have declared Child wakes from coma rather than Eldest child wakes from coma.)

Did you know all this? Me neither. What the fuck kind of freaky shit is going on in Austria?

It occurs to me now that there are similarities between these two headlines. Both describe events occurring in Europe. Both as well describe some condition that a European individual was in, but is now no longer in said condition. I wonder why these catch my attention so.

The Big Day, pt. 4 – Recap

Our biggest fan, Mother Dillon, flies from hundreds of miles away to see us. She comes every year, except the one year where our recital conflicted with our niece Elizabeth’s ballet recital. In the hierarchy of these things, the grandchild takes precedence, we understand. Second biggest fan Dr. Bob attends, of course, but this year he is accompanied by Sharon, who doesn’t always get to come.

And special guest stars Aida and Helena really make it such a treat for us. Goodness, we’ve been practicing all year.

Afterward we repair to the traditional locale, Tortilla Coast, for margaritas. And we are devastatingly disappointed when we arrive and discover that they are closed for a private party. So we trudge back, almost all the way back to St. Mark’s, and go to La Lomita instead. At first I’m worried that they’re not even open yet. They don’t look especially open. But they are, and in fact they’re surprisingly full. We have a party of 7, (the above-mentioned fans, plus Dawn, me, and Jessica R.), so then I’m worried they won’t have room for us. Apparently I worry too much, because they have a whole ‘nother room downstairs, which we get all to ourselves.

The food is not all that memorable, but that kinda fits since our dancing isn’t all that memorable either. But the tequila does its magic, and it’s good to have old company and new company. And did I mention the tequila?

See you next year.

She Quits. Mostly.

Mother Dillon flies up from GA, so we pick her up at National. We get home just in time for lunch and Hillary Clinton’s speech at the National Building Museum. Sarah thinks it’s a funny place to give a speech, but we point out that it’s an awesome space. It’s a great place to give a speech.

The speech itself is billed as a concession speech, and likely will be remembered as such. But, in point of fact, not one time does Senator Clinton utter the word concede; rather, as she puts it, she suspends her campaign.

Parts of the speech are actually gracious, and uplifting. There are some good touches. But she has been so many things this primary season, presented so many faces and moods and personalities. So it’s hard for me to take her at completely face value.

Maybe I think this also because of the strange section in the body of the speech, where she’s supposed to be throwing her support behind Senator Obama, but in doing so she uses such an oddly tortured construction. Because said construction is so utterly un-poetic, because it’s so literally hard to say, it almost reinforces the idea that it’s figuratively hard to say.

The basic structure is:

We’ll have to work hard for [such and such]. But on the day we live in an America [where such and such happens], we will live in a stronger America. And that is why we must help elect Barack Obama our president.

The point of this part of the speech is to tell her supporters that they have to come together as a party and work for him now. She explicitly says it earlier: I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me. So then why in this section does she put as many words and concepts as possible between the hard work and the mention of Senator Obama’s name?

The only thing that I can think is that she wants to end each paragraph with, and repeat, the phrase Barack Obama, Our President, get us used to hearing that. Like creative visualization, you know? If you can imagine it, then you can do it. Otherwise, it’s just weird.


Oh, yes. Finally. After what seems like years since Iowa, decades since they first announced, Barack Obama collects enough delegates to sew up the nomination. I watch Hillary Clinton speak around nine-thiry, Senator Obama around ten.

Her speech is as graceless and classless as ever. She has lost. Her job is to concede. But, she famously declares, she will be making no decisions tonight.

Apparently John McCain speaks tonight as well. His speech before literally hundreds of supporters is universally panned, even by the talking heads at Fox.

Senator Obama packs the joint in St. Paul, in the hockey arena where the Republicans will convene later in the summer. Tens of thousands in the place, with tens of thousands more outside. The earth rumbles as great tectonic plates are shifting, as he’s changed the party and the game and the nation, no matter what happens in the fall.

I notice and especially enjoy the little moment with his wife Michelle when they bump fists as she glides off, gives way for him to speak. I think it’s so cute. Others apparently don’t.

Happy 50th, Cardinal McCarrick

I was born and raised a Catholic, but I never did the confirmation thing as a teenager like I should have. With Dad being in the Army, we moved every year or two, certainly never more than three years in one place, so we didn’t ever really put down much in the way of roots in any one parish anywhere. And it was the seventies, when a lot of people were drifting away from the Church. And I was a typical teenagers, much more interested in girls and drugs and AOR music than some dumb old God and Jesus stuff.

So fast forward twenty-five years and part of my initial attraction to Dawn was not just that she was Catholic, but she actually went to Mass. And she invited me to go to Ash Wednesday with her. This was before we started dating proper even. And when we got engaged I wanted to go ahead and actually get confirmed, even though there wasn’t like any rule or anything that said I had to do it. But I wanted to do it.

And the whole RCIA process was incredible and great. Chris McCullough was the faith coordinator at the Cathedral at the time, and I loved him. And Michael and Barbara and Will and Bridget. And Barbara Reck, my sponsor. And the cool kids in the class of ’03 with me, Dori and James and Sam and Heather. And so come the big day, the Easter Vigil Mass, April 19, 2003, it’s Elvis himself, Cardinal McCarrick who presides and traces the cross on my forehead with the oil.

And today he celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination as a priest. Happy Fiftieth, your Eminence. Or, as Rocco Palmo says everyone calls you, Uncle Ted.

scan0013We got to meet him in a more personal setting an hour or so before the Mass that day we got confirmed, down in the East Conference Room. We lined up, each of us with our sponsors, and Chris presented each of us to and introduced us to the Cardinal, who gave us each an icon of St. Matthew, appropriately enough. It sits to this day on my dresser, gazing at me every morning as I get ready for work. He was a civil servant, St. Matthew was, and is the patron saint of same.

I had had a rather more personal encounter with his Eminence two days before that, actually, when I was one of the dozen whose feet he washed at the Holy Thursday Mass. It was really scary, actually, before hand. But then so very moving at the actual moment. For him and for us, it seemed to me.

And the other picture of him that I always carry with me is at the Vigil Mass on April 2, 2005, which otherwise would have been a pretty ordinary Saturday, except that His Holiness John Paul II had passed away that afternoon, a couple of hours before the Vigil Mass. So Cardinal McCarrick came to celebrate, and President Bush and the First Lady arrived as well. I certainly never expected to be in the same room, albeit a pretty big room, with the President of the United States ever in my life. Oh, hey, and certainly not this President. Not by choice by a long shot. But there I was. Praying so very hard: Thy will be done, and As we forgive those. Thy will be done. As we forgive those. Thy will be done. As we forgive those. The Cardinal was very warm and generous that day, much nicer than I’ll ever be.

Aimless Rambling About My First Job

I started my first job in August of 1980. My mother worked at this doctors office as a secretary, and they needed an office boy. That’s how I thought of it, office boy. I don’t know if I even had a job title, and I don’t suppose there’s such a thing as office boy anymore. But back then there was. And I became one.

I started right after I was finished with some sort of summer school thing with Tom and Kevin. I think we were helping Mr. Windt with classes of like elementary school kids or something. I don’t really remember much except the kids and the Rolling Stones “Emotional Rescue” on the radio. Minimum wage was $3.15 at the time, but I got hired at the princely sum of $3.50 per hour. I think Tom was making $3.15 at Bell at the mall. I don’t know if Kevin was working yet.

I seem to remember that there was some thought at first that I would do some courier work as well as be office boy. I rode around like maybe my first day with the office courier, between the Alexandria office and the Springfield office. A few years later I became the actual courier and drove the Mercury Lynx that the office owned, but this one day I rode around in this guy’s own car. Was some sort of old Falcon or Dart, some sixties vintage thing. It was pretty awesome, now that I think about it. At the time I probably thought it was just old.

And this guy, I can’t remember his name, was pure eschatologically nuts. Told me all sorts of things about the Book of Revelation, about how the U.S. government was going to tattoo all of us on our necks with like our social security numbers and how this represented the Biblical mark of the beast. Dude was probably in his mid-twenties or something, but I was all of sixteen and he was an adult and I took him pretty seriously. He freaked me the fuck out is what he did.

I told my mother about it and she just kinda laughed and scoffed and told me to ignore him. Whew.

But I didn’t do much in the way of courier stuff after that. Mostly I made copies. The office had a copier, but there weren’t really such things as document feeders or sorters or collators or anything back then. That was what office boys were there to do. So that’s what I did. Made copies one page at a time. Copies of thick folders of medical records.

There was a computer system that printed out a big fat list of all charges every month. I guess this computer didn’t have enough memory to store these charges, because there was a book of these charges for every month going back a few years, and if anyone wanted an itemized bill of their charges then I would go down into the basement to where these books were stored and hand copy the charges out of them for each month. Then one of the secretaries would type up the list and we’d send it to whoever had asked for it.

The computer was an IBM System 34 mainframe. It was about the size of a pickup truck. There were dumb terminals scattered around the billing office, maybe half a dozen. I suppose Shirley would have definitely had one. Mrs. Lyles too. Then Candy and Vicky probably. Maybe Mr. Brossette and Mrs. Higgison would have had them too, but maybe not.

I guess hard disks were a few years away. The system used like this cassette pack of floppy disks, like the old five-and-a-quarter-inch floppies, except that they were bigger, eight or ten inches. The cassette held maybe six or eight of them. They couldn’t have held much more than 512 kilobytes probably. Is why everything had to be printed out every month. Is why I had a job, I guess.

The place was called Northern Virginia Orthopaedic & Allied Specialty Clinics, Inc. (or maybe Clinic was singular). Abbreviated as NOVOC. Later it became like Orthopedic Group or something like that, and it was NOVOG. When I started there were eight orthopaedic surgeons and four radiologists. They were somehow affiliated with National Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, because I used to work there sometimes too. Again in the billing office. There was no computer system there at all. Each patient’s information was saved on a paper form, a half-sheet of letter-sized paper, thinner than regular copy paper stock, though not quite like onion skin paper. There were tens of thousands of these forms, and I had a stack of them to file every day.

We used the doctors’ initials in a lot of things we wrote down. Dr. Bigley was ECB, for Elmer Clarence Bigley. Dr. Rosenthal was SJR, and while I knew his first name was Sheldon, I always thought of him as Sammy J. Rosenthal. There was Dr. Leabhart, but I don’t remember his initials. Same with Dr. Kaye, who used to be a GP before he became an orthopaedic guy. I used to get him to write me a prescription every time I got conjunctivitis. I used to get that a lot, for some reason. I remember MCR was Marion Restivo. Later when I was the courier he used to make me go deposit his paycheck. We got paid once a month, and his paycheck was generally somewhere around $10,000. It was almost too much money for me to comprehend back then.

Later Mr. Brossette left and Mrs. Higgison took his job as office administrator and my mother took her job as office manager. Years after that Mrs. Higgison left and my mother became administrator. I think I was long gone by then.

Through the magic of the web, I find out that Mrs. Higgison apparently moved to Florida. Does good work down there still, as of a few years ago anyway. Mr. Brossette apparently left the healthcare field and opened some restaurants in Rehoboth. I used to go to Rehoboth in the late eighties when he maybe was there, but I didn’t run into him. He died in 1997 at the young age of 41. Funny to think that he was only 24 when I worked for him. He was the boss, so I remember him as older.

Insider Baseball

I annoyed poor Dawn on Saturday by following the DNC RBC meeting on C-SPAN TV and radio all day. Heard Harold Ickes claim that the Michigan compromise commits violence to and hijacks the process.

For the record, though. I am not at all comfortable with awarding the uncommitteds to Obama. I say this as someone who is totally drunk on the Obama Kool-Aid, as well having come to loathe Hillary Clinton with a surprising passion.

At the very least, if they were going to seat the Michigan delegation, they needed to give to Clinton the full 73. She was on the ballot, people. She got the votes. Not just uncomfortable, I’m pretty solidly opposed to taking away four from her. Count me convinced, Harold Ickes.

But Nate Silver over at 538 says that Obama couldn’t concede to the 73-55 split without implying that he supports Clinton’s claim to the popular vote totals in Michigan. Or, the other way around, if Clinton hadn’t been claiming the popular vote lead so vocally, (so loudly? in so shrill a way?), then Obama might have been nicer.

But, even so, Chuck Todd claims that Obama had the RBC votes for a 64-64 split, but that would have been a closer vote than the eventual 69-59. So he was nicer than he could have been. Still, Todd adds this semi-cryptic update:

Also, according to those with knowledge of the Michigan agreement, it is fair to claim Clinton the winner of Michigan. But they caution against counting her popular vote in the state.

Um, okay. Sure. Whatever that means.


So, it’s here and Easter is over. And funny to find out today about the readings from the Mass celebrated by His Holiness Benedict XVI a few weeks back. They certainly weren’t the readings for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter. But apparently they weren’t just some random readings either. They were – you guessed it – Pentecost readings! Not quite today’s readings, being as they were the year B readings. We’re in year A of course.

And all this Easter season we’ve had the rite of blessing and sprinkling of holy water, during which we sing Vidi aquam. And it’s a tough little ten-note snippet, this refrain is.

It’s in 3/8 time, stretching these four simple syllables over 7 bars. The first syllable Vi– is a quarter note F followed by an eighth note G. The second syllable –di is a quarter G, an eighth E, a quarter G, and an eighth F. Third comes the a– in aquam, dotted quarters F G F. The -quam is another dotted quarter F.

You see how all three transitions from one syllable to the next happen on the same note. And for some reason they all give me trouble. The first and third are marginally less troublesome, given that the new syllable at least starts with a consonant. But the transition from the di- in Vidi to the a- of aquam is especially hard. I miss it at least half the time. Something about holding the same note but changing vowel sounds. Can’t do it.


wash-ballet-cindy-ticketBecky comes over for dinner – penne putanesca – and then we head out to the Warner Theatre to see the Washington Ballet’s Cinderella. Or, the ticket says, Septime Webre’s Cinderella.

We go to the Warner every year to see the Washington Ballet perform Septime Webre’s Nutcracker. And we’re up in the balcony every year. So it’s really weird to be down in orchestra seating. It hardly seems like the same theater to me.

The step-sisters are played by men and are thoroughly overdone and campy and annoying and way way way too much. I hate them. Other than them though I quite enjoy the production. Brianne Bland dances Cindy herself. Erin Mahoney-Du is her fairy godmother. And there are apparently seasonal fairies, of which Jade Payette is spring and Elizabeth Gaither is summer. You know, all my favorites.

Jared Nelson is the prince, and Dawn complains because they’ve dressed him in pink.


It is and it isn’t Ascension today. That would’ve technically been May 1, really. But apparently in the Archdiocese of Washington today is Ascension Sunday.

We ride our bikes to church, so we arrive a good twenty minutes early. The 8:30 Mass is still filing out. I ask an usher about this, and he explains that there was a speaker after the Mass. Is why it seems to have run so late. I dash downstairs to use the restroom and notice a poster for the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. Probably a speaker from/for them. We’ll likely hear him/her as well.

Back upstairs in our pew I get settled, kneeling and trying to pray. But there are still tourists from the earlier Mass wandering around and taking pictures. Seems like nowadays we’ve all got cameras, are always taking pictures, what with the digital cameras now. I’m as guilty as the rest, I suppose.

Bill Culverhouse sings an astonishing piece from Messiah, I’m not sure which piece. Thou art gone up on high; Thou hast led captivity captive, I think. But he’s in fine, wonderful voice this morning, and it’s a little lower than his usual tenor register. As I said, it’s wonderful, except for the tourists still puttering about.

The entrance hymn is A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing. I think we sang this as the closing hymn last week. But it’s totally an Ascension song. I get all excited with the third stanza, knowing the reading that we’ll get getting today.

To whom the shining angels cry,
“Why stand and gaze upon the sky?”

Oh, yeah. That’s right. We’re getting the “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” One of my total favorites.

The hymn’s tune is Lasst uns erfreuen, which Babelfish tells me means “Leave to us a pleasing” in German. I still don’t really get it. It’s an old, old tune, according to ChoralWiki. Written I guess by Pe­ter von Brach­el in 1623, although they seem also to credit it to Ralph Vaughan Williams, apparently because of his 1906 harmony thereto. I’m not sure how that works.

I should really ask Bill Culverhouse about these things. I would if I knew him better. But now he’s leaving us anyway. In June I think.

The readings today are interesting bookends, in a way. The first reading is from the very beginning of Acts. And the Gospel reading is, as Deacon Work announces it, from the conclusion of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. It’d match up even better if the Gospel were from St. Luke. Maybe they do that in other years.

And sure enough, of course, Acts begins with the Ascension of our Lord. Whoosh he goes up in a cloud, and the apostles stand there like dummies looking up at the sky.

While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I love this passage, this exhortation to get to work down here while we’re waiting for him to return. Let’s get it right, people!

The Gospel reading itself is amazing in its own way.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.

Can you imagine? It sure makes me feel a whole lot better, about my own moments of weakness and doubt. Here are Christ’s very own apostles, who have been with him for however long, who have personally witnessed the miracles. Who have seen him crucified and return from & conquer death. And yet they still doubt. Amazing.

And we do get the dude from the HCEF talking to us after Mass. I’m a little troubled by him, actually. While it sounds like they do good work, with the kids and the educational scholarships and all, I find his/their focus on ensuring a continuing Christian presence in the Holy Land a little disturbing. It’s a bit Crusade-y for my tastes.

The recessional hymn is Go Make of All Disciples. The tune is Ellacombe. I really don’t know and haven’t figured out what that one means. But I do learn that there’s something called an Ellacombe apparatus, something that aids in church bell ringing. And, in one of those little details that makes Wikipedia so great, it says that said apparatus was invented to deal with unruly bell ringers. Who knew they were such trouble.

Quick Glimpses of the Pope

I had figured that the Holy Father would finish his visit at the White House around noon, and then it would take a while for the motorcade and popemobile to get organized. And if things ran late, then he wouldn’t be heading up the hill until maybe even one.

So at noon I fire up and the live video feed. And there he is, already in the popemobile, on the move on Pennsylvania Avenue! Yikes!

I grab my backpack and coat and start running. I figure I am too late to go straight south the four blocks, straight to Pennsylvania. He’s moving west, so I head west as well, on M Street. They meet, M and Pennsylvania, right before Georgetown.

I can see the crowds down at the ends of the blocks as I hustle past 22nd, then 24th. (No crowds allowed at 23rd, at Washington Circle, apparently.) Think maybe I see the popemobile in the distance across one of the blocks as well. I finally cut south at 26th, at that little park there, just a small block north of Pennsylvania. There are a few folks lining the sides of Pennsylvania, as well as three looks like college kids relaxing in lawn chairs. I tear off my backpack to try to get the camera out, but suddenly I’m all fumble-fingered and inept with the lock. And suddenly this very second of course he goes riding by. Ah well. No picture, but I do see him pretty close, maybe half a block away. The college kids lounging in the chairs wave enthusiastically.

So that’s it then, I think, walking the few feet back to M Street. But looking west at the mess of the traffic jam trying to get into and through Georgetown, I wonder idly where the motorcade is going next. Thinking about where we are in relation to the Nunciature up Massachusetts, I suddenly realize that they’re likely to be heading up Rock Creek Parkway. And I’m only like 100 feet from the bridge where M Street goes over the Parkway.

So I trot over, and sure enough there’s the motorcade going right below. I catch my best glimpse yet of the Holy Father, sitting in the popemobile with Archbishop Wuerl, just before he goes under my feet. (I had yanked out the camera phone and tried to snap a pic with that, but the shutter lag utterly screwed me. So no pix again.)

I turn around and dash through the stopped cars to get to the north side of the bridge, to watch the motorcade head north away from me. Two cops start yelling at me, telling me that I have to keep moving, that there’s no stopping on the bridge. I usually react with solicitousness, followed soon by anger, but then immediately replaced with an overwhelming self-loathing at such encounters with preening petty authority like this. But at this moment I am filled with such cheer at having seen His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI that I do just keep moving, start walking back to the office.

Not quite the experience I was hoping to have, but a small measure of success anyway.

Michael Sean Winters

It is hard to overstate how important Michael is in my returning to the Church. I first went to see Chris McCullough, at the time the coordinator of faith formation at St. Matt’s, and after we talked he suggested I start attending the weekly inquiry meetings on Wednesday nights in the East Conference Room. The first time I went I met Will and Bridget, and the next week I met Michael and Barbara. And they traded off every week, Will/Bridget and Michael/Barbara.

But the thing that struck me right away that second week, meeting Michael for the first time, was something he said. He first asked us all why we were there. We went around the room giving various answers as to our backgrounds and relationships maybe with Catholics and what we were seeking. After we were all done, Michael said that these things were all well and good, but first and foremost, we had arrived here because God had called us here.

I was rather stunned to hear this.

You may argue as to the influence that God actually has on us on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps then it’s more accurate to say that God calls all of us, each and every one of us, all the time. So perhaps we had showed up that day because were just finally answering a phone that had been ringing and ringing for some time.

Talking to him since then, I’ve learned that he’s a writer. Wrote a lot about the scandal, priests sexually molesting kids and the Church covering it up for decades. The Scandal – it deserves capitalization, at least. Wrote for the New Republic. I had done some web surfing and scoured up a bunch of articles and put them together as The Michael Sean Winters Reader.

Have now discovered that he blogs. (Of course! Who doesn’t?) Over at America, the National Catholic Weekly. Read him there, contributing to the In All Things blog.

EJB’s Dreams

Edward: Last night I dreamed I was taking a shower with David Schwimmer’s guitar.

Dawn: David Schwimmer? You mean the guy from Friends?

Edward: Yeah.

Dawn: You have some strange dreams, dude.

Edward: It was an acoustic guitar. He owed somebody $200.

Dawn: [no response]

Edward: Maybe he was trying to hide the guitar.

Lunch at the Tabard

Either Joe or Helena had suggested going farther afield, exploring someplace new for lunch, up north maybe, closer to the circle. So I thought, why not the Tabard? So there we go.

We arrive twelve-fifteenish, twelve-twentyish, sans reservations. Bad move. We hear the hostess explaining probabilities of seating and wait times to a couple ahead of us, and we start planning to go across the street to the Iron Gate or whatever that restaurant is. But I ask anyway if there’s any room for a party of three. And actually there’s a likely no-show of a party of three, and she asks us to take a seat, wait maybe ten minutes. So we do.

And of course it’s the Tabard, that sitting room between the lobby and the restaurant, perfect for hanging out, except that there’s no fire roaring in the fireplace today. But it’s only about five minutes later that we get seated. Perfect.

Joe and I order glasses of pinot grigio; Helena opts for a tempranillo. Says its like a rioja. Tiffanie L. turned her on to it in Seattle.

For entrees Helena and I both get the Niçoise salad. Joe has some sort of pasta, I don’t hear exactly what he orders. For extra decadence, Joe and Helena both order dessert, and Joe and I both partake in second glasses of wine.

Joe is the sleepiest back at work.

Going to the Show, Baby!

Just got an email from the staff assistant at the rectory. The subject line was PAPAL MASS TICKETS, so from the sender and the subject I was pretty excited right away. Of course, could always have been, “Sorry to inform you …”

But it wasn’t. Not at all.

Good Afternoon:

You have been selected to receive a ticket …

Oh, yeah. I’m in!

I kept telling myself during these weeks waiting to hear that it was okay either way, that I’d understand if there wasn’t room for me. But all that went right out the window when I saw the email. I realized how much I really really really wanted to go.