Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Saturday, April 14, 2018

She had us at that patch

Molly the Dog
Dec. 21, 2000 - April 11, 2018
There never will be another Molly.
She was a star from the get-go, as evidenced by her photo shoot (above) for an Omaha World-Herald features article when she was just two months old, shortly after we adopted her from the Nebraska Humane Society.
Tom Cruise might have had Renée Zellweger at "hello," but Molly had Mrs. Favog and me when we saw that patch.
Almost a decade later, Molly had the opportunity to flex her doggie method-acting muscles for a spoof of that infamous Tiger Woods post-scandal Nike ad. (No actual canine pee was deployed for the video -- just tap water. But Mollster really sold it, didn't she?)
TRULY, our little Molly was one of a kind. Our hearts now are broken.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pure Nebraska. Straight, no chaser.

In south Louisiana, where I was born and raised, you have Cajun music at Fred's in Mamou on Saturday mornings.

In way-rural eastern Nebraska -- by way of a couple of gravel county roads and a winding dirt one, if you're coming from the nearby metropolis of Brainard  (population 330) -- there's a polka band at the Loma Tavern on Sunday evenings.

You don't stumble across Loma, an unincorporated hilltop village of 30 souls, a handful of houses, a church, an empty hardware store . . . and the Loma Tavern. No, you have to look hard for Loma.

Ever see the 1990s cult movie, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar with Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo? The fictional Snydersville, the middle-of-nowhere burg where they get stranded, is really Loma. And the bar is the Loma Tavern, which used to be the Bar-M Corral.

If you didn't know that before you find your way to the Loma Tavern, you'll know it before you leave.

Anyway,  in this stretch of Nebraska -- Butler County, like many stretches of Nebraska -- you have two kinds of people: Czechs and more Czechs . . . though I did see someone who copped to being German. And on this seasonable spring evening in Little Bohemia, 13-year-old accordionist Addie Hejl (pronounce Heil) was fronting the band for the first time. Then again, she's only been playing for a year.

Sounds like she's been playing for 20 but, no, just a year.

BEING FROM bayou country and having been force-fed a Saturday-night diet of Lawrence Welk during my formative years, I am not unfamiliar with accordions. Or -- thanks again to Mr. Welk -- polka music.

But polka is a Midwestern thing. In eastern Nebraska, polka music on small-town radio stations every Sunday afternoon is akin to Cajun music on small-town Louisiana radio stations every Saturday morning. I think, truth be told, that the DNA of folks on the Czech and German plains of this state has developed a polka mutation, much as my swamp-Gallic DNA has the extra Jolie Blonde chromosome.

The shared trait of the two mutations is the accordion. That and little roadhouses in the middle of nowhere that, on warm and lazy weekend evenings, become the center of the musical universe. Ask Addie Hejl, who still is eight years shy of being able to knock back a legal cold one.

When I was still eight years shy of being able to knock back a legal cold one, I, too, found myself in a few centers of the musical universe in parts of southeastern Louisiana more familiar to bullfrogs and bream than actual people.

A few of them, to tell you the truth, made the Loma Tavern look like the Cocoanut Grove. One in Whitehall -- in deepest, darkest Livingston Parish -- had a drop ceiling . . . with the bottoms of beer cases substituting for tiles.

I REMEMBER sitting at a table drinking my Coca-Cola as my parents and my aunt and uncle sat and drank their beers. It was a quiet Sunday evening -- not much going on except for another 45 dropping on the jukebox.

It was Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Knock Three Times."
Hey girl what ya doin' down there
Dancin' alone every night while I live right above you
I can hear your music playin'
I can feel your body swayin'
One floor below me you don't even know me
I love you . . .

Oh my darling,
Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me
Twice on the pipe if the answer is no
Oh my sweetness,
Means you'll meet me in the hallway
Twice on the pipe means you ain't gonna show
AT THIS, Aunt Ceil looked up at the ceiling.

At the cardboard beer-case bottoms that were the ceiling. At the Budweiser and Schlitz and Dixie and Falstaff and Miller High-Life "ceiling tiles."

"Knock three times on that ceiling, and the damn thing'll fall on you," she deadpanned.

I don't think Coca-Cola blew out of my nose, but it had to have been close. That may have been when I decided that Aunt Ceil was -- by far -- the funniest person in Daddy's German-Dutch-Irish family.

I THOUGHT of these things as I stood in the back of a century-old country bar in Nebraska listening to a teenage accordion wunderkind and a couple of guys a generation and two older playing polka music -- things half a country and a lifetime ago made present here and now by musical ties that bind.

As I looked across the tavern, through the dancing couples and toward the band, I saw something else entirely. I saw Mama and Daddy, alive again and younger than myself, two-stepping across the dance floor to a country band in Killian, La. I saw a time when a little honky-tonk between river and swamp seemed like a big thing to a kid.

To me.

The thought of trying to explain to strangers why a 50-something man was crying in the back of a little bar in Loma, Neb., kept the tears -- and humiliation -- at bay.

Maybe geezers like myself could be forgiven for thinking that, maybe, 13-year-old girls instead should aspire to play in a Runaways tribute band. Call it the Queens of Noise.

It's just that those accordions will get you every time.

Every. Damn. Time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas 1962 . . . in full-fidelity FM stereo

Here, the tree stays up until Epiphany. We do things in the proper manner.

In that spirit, Revolution 21 presents Yuletide as it was heard in 1962 -- an hour and 19 minutes of Christmas Day programming in "full-fidelity FM stereo" on KQAL radio in Omaha. If you don't remember the 1960s, particularly FM radio in the early '60s, this will be a revelation to you.

Click for full-size version
This is not today's FM radio. This is . . . how shall we put it . . . laid back. Radio by grown-ups, you could say.

It's not all that slick. Technology was more difficult then. Records skipped, and there wasn't much money in FM in 1962. The money was over on AM, back when AM radio mattered. Really mattered.

In 1962 (in 1972, for that matter), FM was for dentist offices, your mom and dad and grandma and grandpa with their "elevator music" (look it up), and frequency modulation was for the "longhairs." No, not hippies. There weren't any yet -- "beatniks" were as counterculture as you got back then. The longhairs listened to classical music, and they were a lot more cultured than you and me.

HERE, KQAL was for the longhairs and elevator-music lovers from its inception April 19, 1959. And in 1962, it was the only station in these parts broadcasting in that newfangled "FM multiplex stereo," which became a thing in June 1961 after its approval by the Federal Communications Commission.

But you'll hear from this recording that FM receivers (or multiplex adapters, which also used to be a thing) weren't as good as they would be . . . and a 54-year-old reel-to-reel tape probably doesn't sound quite as bright as it once did. And you'll hear that stations like KQAL, at 94.1 on your FM stereo dial, still were figuring out what to do with that extra channel of audio when the records weren't playing.

Sometimes it could get weird. Listen, and you'll hear what I mean. No, I will not spoil it for you.

Some day soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow

BUT THAT'S NOT what's important.

What's important is that this is the sound of Christmas in my 55-year-old head and my 55-year-old heart. It's the sound of the holidays when adults ran the world, and I was far from being one.

When I think of Christmas in our two-bedroom, one-bath house on Darryl Drive in Baton Rouge, La., this station from long ago in Omaha, where I now have lived far longer than I did in Louisiana, is pretty much what I hear. For the record, I also smell fruitcake, pecans and walnuts, fresh oranges, strong coffee, a huge spruce tree in the living room . . . and Bruce floor wax.

I hear and smell these things that are no more. The older I get, the more it happens.

With each passing year, there also are more and more "no mores." At Christmas, I see the loved ones who once filled my house and my life but are no more. I hear the voices long silent.

I remember a Christmas Day soundtrack that sounded kind of like this. As it turns out, my memories are in full-fidelity FM stereo, too.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Heaven had 12 channels and no snow

When you're rummaging through your childhood home, and your family's life, you find things.

You have absolutely no idea why they were saved, but you're amazed and happy that they were.

Cable television came to Baton Rouge, but not all of Baton Rouge, in 1975. Aunt Sybil and Uncle Jimmy lived in north Baton Rouge -- this was '75, so that would have been pre-apocalyptic north Baton Rouge -- and working-class north Baton Rouge had Cablevision, while my working-class east-central Baton Rouge environs . . . didn't.

Obviously, north Baton Rouge was something just shy of the Beatific Vision some 38 years ago, because you could get 12 channels on your TV there with no static at all. Bless them . . . no static at all.

Cablevision was amazing. So amazing that I begged this Dec. 20-26, 1975, edition of Cablecast off my aunt and uncle. And I saved it. And almost four decades later, it turned up in a forgotten box on a dirty shelf in a blazing-hot utility building in the back yard.

NOW, almost four decades later, I'm sitting here thinking, "We were ape over 12 lousy channels, and none of them were Turner Classic Movies or ESPN?" Of course, in 1975, there wouldn't be an ESPN for another four years, but that's not important now.

Then again, if you lived in Baton Rouge in 1970, you had your Channel 2 and you had your Channel 9. One was NBC, the other CBS and they divided up what anybody wanted from ABC.

We got Channel 33 -- and ABC full time -- in October 1971.

And we finally got public television in 1975, about the time we got cable TV. Yeah, getting 12 channels was a big frickin' deal.

SUCH A big deal, I'm sure the very prospect made News Scene on Channel 9.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The things you save

Mama never threw out anything. At least not much more than garbage and old coffee grounds.
Now she's going to be 90, she fell and broke her hip and she can't live in the house in Red Oaks anymore. Mama's seen better days and, frankly, so has Red Oaks, which has the misfortune to lie north of Florida Boulevard and east of Eden in my hometown of Baton Rouge.

Week before last, my wife and I made a frenzied trip back South to see Mama in the hospital and take care of a few years' worth of loose ends. All in six days.

Part of the process that will hit almost every middle-aged child of someone in God's good time is disposing of a life -- a life that's over, or a life that's merely transitioning to a phase where your home is no longer your own, and neither are your choices. What you rarely realize until it's slapping you in the face . . . over and over and over again, that is when it's not punching you in the gut . . . is that you're disposing of your own life, too.
YOU, in the course of a week, frantically rummage through your childhood home, through all the stuff that Mama never threw out and, ultimately, through your memories both blessed and cursed. You rummage through your childhood, grabbing the precious things to take home as one grabs what's most precious as they flee a burning house, and you say goodbye.
Goodbye to all your old stuff -- yet again. Goodbye to the home of your childhood. Goodbye to your childhood. I'm home again, but Thomas Wolfe was right, or at least mostly right.
“You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing's sake, back home to aestheticism, to one's youthful idea of 'the artist' and the all-sufficiency of 'art' and 'beauty' and 'love,' back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time--back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
IT'S JUST as well, I reckon. But just the same, I'll hang on to these relics, second class, of one of my earliest Christmases, 'round about 1962. I'll hang onto Fred and Dino and the Flintstone Flivver. (Ninety-eight cents, cheap!)
It was a yabba dabba doo time. A dabba doo time. It was a gay old time.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

In the ghetto

The account of Baton Rouge's latest murder was brief and routine -- as brief as the lives of too many young black men and as routine as fatal shootings have become in my hometown.

It went like this in the Sunday paper:
Baton Rouge police found the body of a male late Saturday after responding to a call of shots fired on Geronimo Street, a news release says.

Officers received the call about 11:45 p.m. Saturday that shots were being fired on Geronimo Street, near Mohican Street, Capt. Dwayne Bovia said in the news release.

They found the body of a black male in a grassy area in the 3800 block of Geronimo Street, the release says.

Police did not provide the name or any other information about the victim.
JUST ANOTHER nothing story about the mundane destruction of human life and entire worlds. Entire worlds? Yes, entire worlds.

Naturally, you have the destroyed world of yet another destroyed inner-city neighborhood, and you have the destroyed world of deviance and death that its inhabitants must somehow navigate against all odds.

Then, you have the destroyed civic world of a city where murder is so routine as to barely be noticed by the daily newspaper. If it's true, as the Talmud says, that "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world," what's to be said about a place as deadly as Baton Rouge?

What's to be said about the destruction of the world of every Baton Rougean who beholds this mundane obliteration of worlds and thinks "Meh." Or that it's just another day in the 'hood, what are you going to do?

How can we think of apathy, think of acceptance in the face of everyday death and creeping urban moonscapes as anything but the view from a destroyed world?

Me, I saw this little item and once again was reminded of the destruction of part of my world -- or at least its passing away decades ago. On Geronimo Street.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Last night's leftovers

Gumbo . . . yummmm.

That's one of the great things about the week between Christmas and New Year's -- the leftovers. This is the leftovers from our traditional Christmas Eve chicken-and-sausage gumbo. And the thing about leftover gumbo is this: The gumbo is always better a day or two later.

And, yes, there's a story behind the Christmas Eve gumbo.

It has been said that this was my best gumbo ever. Now. modesty prevents me from saying this myself, but if other people want to say it, who am I to stifle free speech?

That would be un-American. Burrrrrp.

Monday, March 19, 2012

HBO and the 'New York n*ggers'

Pardon my French, but this happened, and I just need to tell it the way it was.

When my father died in May 2001, my most desperate wish was that Flannery O'Connor had been alive -- and there -- to help me (and, most especially, my Yankee bride) process the Southern Gothic fun house that once again surrounded us after many years in the Midwest.

There were many scenes Miss O'Connor could have offered her commentary on, but I'll just tell you about this particular one. It was a late spring evening in Baton Rouge, and we had gathered at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East -- my wife, my elderly mother and me -- for my dad's wake. Once again, for the first time in many years, the missus and I were engulfed in the barely controlled chaos that is my very large, very south Louisiana, very blue collar and very loud family.

We were standing in the front of the chapel, Daddy behind us in the casket. It was a wake, but it also was a family reunion, a potluck and a competition. If you're from where I'm from, you understand.

Anyway, we were there, and some cousins were there, and my Uncle (Deleted) had arrived a little while before. He is (Deleted) for a reason -- to protect the guilty. I owe family at least that much.

Uncle (Deleted) has a hang-up, you understand -- a not-uncommon one, which you'll see in a second. It's one my old uncle has held onto rather fiercely through the years.

After a short while, in came Uncle D., my mother's baby brother. And, no, I'm not naming him either. Always the, uh . . . eccentric, Uncle D. walked into the chapel -- down the middle aisle of the chapel -- looking like a white man's take on Huggy Bear, the black "street character" from the '70s cop show, Starsky and Hutch.

Uncle (Deleted), Mama's older brother, took one look at this spectacle -- and, remember, we were standing in the funeral-home chapel with my dead father six feet behind us -- and bellowed, "Boy, you look like a New York nigger!"

It was not a compliment.

Again, pardon my French. More importantly, pardon Uncle (Deleted)'s.

THE ABOVE video -- from "filmmaker" Alexandra Pelosi's journey to a Manhattan welfare line, as screened Friday on Real Time with Bill Maher -- is what Uncle (Deleted) was talking about. And just as Pelosi and Maher pointed out the previous week about "typical" Mississippi Republican voters, Pelosi made clear she "didn't have to go too far" in New York to find a critical mass of idiot, reprobate welfare mooches foursquare for President Obama in the coming election.

All but one were African-American.

Once again, I am not sure what Maher's or Pelosi's point is -- apart from "look at the freaks." Racists, idiots and welfare mooches exist. I'll alert the media.

And once again, I am not sure what they hoped to accomplish, apart from confirming coastal liberals' condescension toward white Southerners (Maher: "You didn't pick out these people, and they're not a microcosm of what was there.This is what everyone said to you") and, now -- despite the "context" -- white bigots' stereotypical convictions about the average black American.

I think the real message is from America's cultural elite -- via its compensated spokespeople, Bill Maher and Alexandra Pelosi -- to the country's
obviously unenlightened hoi polloi. What they want us to know, I think, is that we should be grateful they allow the likes of us to intrude upon their country, and that they allow us to do so is a sign of their intellectual and moral superiority.

Or, to quote Ferris Bueller, “It's understanding that makes it possible for people like us to tolerate a person like yourself.”

YOU KNOW what, though? People like Maher and Pelosi are intolerable. What they're doing -- branding people as The Other and holding them up to ridicule -- is intolerable. Furthermore, it's dangerous. We've seen that throughout history.

It's intolerable that, after the dirty deed was done, Maher made vague excuses for the dysfunction of the black Other ("The black guy, his legacy is real, and the white guy in the South, his legacy is a chip on his shoulder") while offering none for the Mississippi Other. Fair is fair -- everybody has a story. Everybody has his reasons for doing what he does and believing what he believes, no matter how wrongheaded the behavior or belief.

What's most intolerable, however, is what people like Maher and Pelosi have done to television . . . and us. Again. I'll give you an example.

What seems a lifetime ago, as a kid in the Deep South, the only culture I knew was a profoundly racist, segregated one. There was no "N-word" euphemism in the working-class universe of Baton Rouge -- there was the universal "nigger." If my people were being polite, "colored" or "nigra."

In the world of journalism or in the polite, for-public-consumption conversation of the cultured classes, it was "Negro."

What made "nigger" possible was the widespread (white) acceptance that the kind of thing we saw on the Maher show Friday was the normal state of blackness in America. What made it possible was the cultural conviction that any evidence to the contrary was the exception, not the rule.

What also made it possible was the belief, constantly reinforced, that maybe you couldn't be completely sure about the exceptions.

That many black folks might, in most ways, be just like you was unthinkable. Just unthinkable.

But. . . .

In the 1960s and '70s, television began to challenge the segregated party line, expanding the narrow horizons of kids like me. It's no exaggeration, I think, to say that the network TV broadcasts of that era were to the South what
Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America were to people behind the Iron Curtain.

We got to see Diahann Carroll in Julia, a black professional in an integrated world up North. We got to see Bill Cosby in I Spy. And Sidney Poitier on the movie of the week.

White kids like me were hooked on Room 222, this California vision of an integrated high school where coexistence was possible and a black man was a universally admired "cool" teacher -- a role model. It was no small thing that Room 222 prepared young minds for encounters with the real thing as integration slowly eroded the once-impermeable monolith of "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

AND WHAT television can help bring together, it also can begin to tear asunder.

That's the business Maher and Pelosi are in. In it, they join much of the rest of our culture, for which "the Other" is the next big thing.

There is a Them, we all seem to agree, and they are out to take away your money, rights, security, culture . . . whatever, and everybody is somebody's Them. Maher's and Pelosi's particular Them -- as I said earlier -- seems to be anyone not as smart, well off or "enlightened" as people like themselves.

Next stop for America 2012 is Bosnia 1993.

No doubt Alexandra Pelosi will be there with her camera.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The house on Geronimo Street

In my mind's eye, I still see the tidy little house on Geronimo Street in north Baton Rouge -- the front yard planted thick with flower beds, and the flower beds planted thick with "elephant ears," and a birdbath sitting in the middle of it all.

I can see the little living room, decorated in early Catholic. The little dining room, used more as a pantry and usually dark, with the refrigerator straight ahead as you walk in the door. Inside the fridge, Chek colas from Winn-Dixie (correctly pronounced WinnandDixie). Inside the freezer, 3 Musketeers bars for the young'uns to have with their Chek colas.

Back in the living room of 3439 Geronimo, there are a couple of 1950's couches, a big cabinet-style gas space heater, a Silvertone color TV with a rounded screen, and a white upholstered rocking chair where my elderly grandma watches her "stories."

It's about 1971, give or take.

North Baton Rouge was solidly working class, intractably on the "wrong side of the tracks," and the home of "those people," as my kinfolk and their confreres were known by the middle-class swells on the right side of the tracks. Four decades ago, it always seemed to me that the "wrong side of the tracks" was a pretty comfortable place to be -- tidy, homey, down to earth and comfortable like an old shoe.

-- which wasn't, really -- you had the Esso refinery (which everybody still called Humble Oil or Standard Oil), any number of chemical plants, and the Ethyl refinery, too. These gave north Baton Rouge its daily bread . . . and a lungful of complex-hydrocarbon je ne sais quoi.

When I was really little, I used to say "it smells like Grandma." Not that Grandma smelled like complex-hydrocarbons with subtle tetraethyl-lead overtones, of course -- it's just that every time over the tracks and down Winbourne to Grandmother's house we went, that was the snoutful I got.

Grandmother's house actually was Aunt Sybil's and Uncle Jimmy's. Aunt Sybil worked at WinnandDixie, and Uncle Jimmy worked in sheet metal, but their real vocation was as family caretakers and our unofficial keepers of the Catholic faith. This chapped my fallen-away mother's ass . . . but that was her problem, not theirs.

Aunt Sybil reminded all us kids that "you got to humble yourself" before, during and after you offer it up. Uncle Jimmy, meantime, sang in the St. Anthony choir as he kept calm and carried on amid the daily blitz of the incendiary Gallic horde he married into.

They put their godchildren through Catholic school when parents could not, then they sowed the seeds of faith in my life when parents would not. The center of all this was the little house at 3439 Geronimo St., where Grandma said her prayers and watched her stories while Jesus and the apostles oversaw it all from the Last Supper painting hanging on the wall.

WHEN I was a kid, we were over there at least once a week. Daddy would bring Grandma a six-pack of Jax beer, much coffee would be drunk, everybody would watch some TV, and I'd end up falling asleep on the sofa.

A whole slew of cousins pretty much grew up in that little house, into which you could fit an amazing number of laughing, drinking, smoking and chattering relatives every Christmas Eve for the making of the gumbo. In my family, the night before Christmas was never as quiet as a mouse and always
was fairly well soaked in chicken gumbo.

To this day -- at least for me and mine -- Christmas just isn't Christmas unless, first, you make a roux. All you need is flour, oil, a hot stove and the memory of a time, a place, and loved ones long gone.

Grandma died in 1973, when I was 12. That was about the same time that north Baton Rouge started to die, too. It was for the usual reasons.

Aunt Sybil and Uncle Jimmy hung on there as long as they could amid the flight of the white working class -- which was fueled by the siren song of suburbia and fear of The Other -- and the subsequent arrival of the black underclass. Long before the decade was out, they moved east to the new working-class enclave, and the little house on Geronimo was relegated to blessed memory. I think the last straw was when someone crapped on their sidewalk.

The racial Unwelcome Wagon, ironically, is an equal-opportunity despoiler.

SOON ENOUGH, Geronimo Street -- the whole "wrong side of the tracks" expanse of north Baton Rouge -- hardly could be described as tidy, homey, down to earth or comfortable like an old shoe. To be brutally honest, it now was the 'hood, with all that entailed. It seemed as if folks like me and mine were about as welcome in our old stomping grounds as they and theirs were in white-flight land.

Baton Rouge is nothing if not a tale of two cities -- segregated suburban sprawl and "Oh, sweet Jesus!"

And the powers that be in my hometown are more than happy to let Oh, Sweet Jesusland go to the devil. Which it has. Because no one cares.

Above you see what's left of the little house at 3439 Geronimo -- it has become a metaphor for the dysfunction of a city and its sins of omission.

A nasty metaphor has replaced the flower beds, the house and a way of life. Fortunately, metaphor is no match for blessed memory and the love that once lived at 3439 Geronimo St.

For that, I give thanks.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Taking OWNership of exploitation

Oh, Lord, won't you find me a sibling to hawk?

A secret one is better, 'cause ratings do talk.

Worked hard all my lifetime to be a billionaire.

So Lord, won't you find me a sibling to hawk?

THAT'S ALL, everybody -- apart from the requisite apologies to the late Janis Joplin, et al -- because Lisa de Moraes pretty much has said all that needs to be said about Oprah Winfrey's "big secret" in The Washington Post:
Lest ratings lag this week, Oprah announced on her show Monday - after her triumphant visit to Australia - that she has a half sister she never knew about.

Modestly billing it as "the miracle of all miracles," Oprah Winfrey said that she learned last fall about Patricia, her half sister who was given up for adoption by their mother shortly after she was born in 1963. Oprah and Patricia met on Thanksgiving Day.

Winfrey was just 9 and living with her father when her mother gave birth to Patricia and gave her up for adoption. Oprah told her studio audience this on the show in its final season of making her queen of syndicated daytime talk TV.

Oprah said she never even knew her mother was pregnant.

Winfrey made "home video" of her first meeting with her half sister; she and partner Stedman Graham drove to Milwaukee to finally meet Patricia, she explained.

Well, that could not have worked out more neatly if one of the pair had been some kind of queen of daytime TV.

And speaking thereof, Winfrey told her audience that she chose to make the announcement herself - so that the media would not exploit it.

We'll give you a minute to savor that one.


The "new" Patricia looked so much like Oprah's other, deceased half sister named Patricia that "it was 'a "Beloved" moment, if you know what that means - a daughter who comes back from the dead in the movie 'Beloved,' " Oprah explained.

A move that stars: Oprah Winfrey.

And which was produced by: Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah got choked up when she began to tell her studio audience about how this Patricia differs from the other Patricia, who, Oprah reminded the crowd, sold Oprah's teen-pregnancy story to a tabloid.

Oprah also got choked up as she told her studio audience how so many people have betrayed her since she became a celebrity, and that it really moved her that this Patricia kept the secret of her relationship to Oprah quiet all this time - until it best suited Oprah's final-season scheduling plans.
LISA DE MORAES, I bow down before thy truth-telling abilities. American TV viewers, meantime, are bowing down before something else entirely.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Meet the parents . . . 1 and 2

It's official -- Mom and Dad will be known henceforth as Parent 1 and Parent 2.

The revised designations come by edict of the U.S. State Department, which is changing its paperwork so it's just as confusing as the rest of our society. Because now Heather does have two mommies. Or daddies.

Or something.

The government press release, however, noted that it remains up to mothers and fathers -- or mothers and mothers . . . or fathers and fathers . . . or parents who transcend gender identification altogether -- to fight it out between themselves over who gets to be 1 and who has to settle for 2.

NOT REALLY, but I don't know why the hell not:

The Department of State is pleased to announce the introduction of a redesigned Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). The CRBA is an official record confirming that a child born overseas to a U.S. citizen parent acquired U.S. citizenship at birth. The redesigned document has state-of-the-art security features that make it extremely resistant to alterations or forgery.

CRBAs have been printed at U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world since their introduction in 1919. Effective January 3, 2011, CRBAs will be printed at our passport facilities in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and New Orleans, Louisiana. Centralizing production and eliminating the distribution of controlled blank form stock throughout the world ensures improved uniform quality and lessens the threat of fraud.

Applications for U.S. passports and the redesigned CRBA will also use the title of “parent” as opposed to “mother” and “father.” These improvements are being made to provide a gender neutral description of a child’s parents and in recognition of different types of families.

IN A RELATED development, the Vatican this week declared that, in deference to the new U.S. policy, all Catholics in English-speaking countries immediately will begin praying "in the name of Parent 2, Child 1 and the Special Friend" when making the sign of the cross.

In response to Rome's decree, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew denounced the popish heresy and declared that the proper formula for the sign of the cross was "in the name of the Parent, the Child and the Honored Companion."

Believers worldwide, meantime, shrugged and returned to their video games.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The sexual apostates

The Catholic Church has taught some basic things about human nature and moral theology quite clearly, quite consistently for a very, very, very long time.

From the beginning, in fact.

And in our Western society, with our tradition of freedom of conscience, one is free to disagree with what the Catholic Church teaches. One is also free to leave it if its teachings so offend one's moral, theological or philosophical sensibilities.

Unfortunately, that kind of intellectual honesty got lost somewhere after the Counter-Reformation. Leading the way in this profound intellectual dishonesty -- some might call it subversion -- are "Catholic" academics.

Two of them are mainstays of the theology department at Creighton University here in Omaha. Creighton is a Catholic school, meaning loosely that it is a place where many Catholic teenagers go to abandon their faith altogether or, perhaps, replace it with some quasi-Gnostic, self-gratifying facsimile thereof.

This brief background explains my amazement -- and glee -- that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops finally has stood up and taken down a couple of apostates within -- those who, ensconced
inside the Catholic establishment, try to subvert everything Catholicism has stood for more than 2,000 years. And this academic, theological dismantling of the "work" of Creighton professors Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler is something to behold.

FEW WILL, though, because modern America -- and, indeed, the modern church -- is allergic to deep discourse, and such an involved fisking of The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology cuts against the grain of today's McNews and McThought. Here's a bit from the USCCB press release today:
In the statement, "Inadequacies in the Theological Methodology and Conclusions of The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology," the Committee asserts that the authors of The Sexual Person "base their arguments on a methodology that marks a radical departure from the Catholic theological tradition" and "reach a whole range of conclusions that are contrary to Catholic teaching."

The Committee concluded that "neither the methodology of The Sexual Person nor the conclusions that depart from authoritative Church teaching constitute authentic expressions of Catholic theology. Moreover, such conclusions, clearly in contradiction to the authentic teaching of the Church, cannot provide a true norm for moral action and in fact are harmful to one's moral and spiritual life."

The views of the two professors previously came under episcopal censure in 2007, when Archbishop Elden Curtiss, then archbishop of Omaha, published a notification in his diocesan newspaper regarding the conclusions of two articles by these professors.

Archbishop Curtiss wrote: "In these articles, Professors Lawler and Salzman argue for the moral legitimacy of some homosexual acts. Their conclusion is in serious error, and cannot be considered authentic Catholic teaching." When in 2008, Salzman and Lawler published their book, The Sexual Person, Archbishop Curtiss wrote to the Committee on Doctrine asking for assistance. After studying the book and conferring with Archbishop Curtiss's successor, Archbishop George Lucas, the Committee decided that the most effective way to address the problem presented by the book was to prepare a statement on the problematic characteristics of its methodology, which leads the authors to a number of conclusions that contradict Catholic moral teaching.

IN BRIEF, the bishops concluded the Creighton professors stretch the meanings of historical context and natural law to the breaking point, so that any interpretation of the demands of scripture and tradition can be transmogrified into "Do what thou wilt."

Needless to say, this take on moral theology might well be more at home in the Church of Satan than it is within any historical understanding of Catholicism -- or, indeed, Christianity itself.

I'm not used to saying this, but . . . good on the bishops.

Likewise, Salzman and Lawler, in their work, elevate personal experience to the level of scripture, natural law and tradition in deciding what is right, and what is sinful . . . that is, if the concept of "sin" even exists in their moral universe, such as it is.

Well, I have some personal experience with Professor Salzman. And I think my personal experience -- elevated, as he would have it, to the level of dogma -- might serve to illuminate how, in the name of "compassion," he and his ilk are more than willing to use the tragedy and pain of ordinary Catholics struggling to be faithful to their church's teaching . . . use it against those ordinary Catholics, all in the name of "liberating" those "oppressed" by the cruel vagaries of "traditionalist" Catholic doctrine.

IN THAT LIGHT, I resurrect something I posted here in January 2008. Then, I called it "I am legend."

* * *

On Christmas morning, our little house bustles with the ghosts of children who never were.

They play tug of war with the ghosts of long-dead dogs and listen to stories of "way back there then" from grandparents who live only in memory. Then we all open presents never bought, tearing through brightly colored wrapping paper that never left its cardboard tube.

And someone always plasters someone's non-existent hair with non-existent bows.

THIS CHRISTMAS, the missus and I sit down for a late supper -- the two of us -- at a table built for six as the old radio on the bookcase plays carols about a holy infant, a mother and child, on some far-away station.

Through nearly 25 years of marriage, we have come to love one another more and more deeply, and we have learned to be thankful for the blessings that are ours. But after years of infertility, then cancer surgery that took a question mark and turned it into a period, we are haunted by the ghosts of our beloved children who never were.

My wife loves babies. She has an infant-seeking radar that will guide her to every small child in a room and have it in her arms as soon as Mama or Daddy will unhand the child. Most people don't realize what a remarkable thing it is to take such grief over what never was and turn it into such love of what is.

Even if "what is" belongs to someone else.

For years, we have volunteered with our church's youth group. And for a while now, we've been going to the weddings of kids the same age as our ghosts, then watching them have their own children.
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true

There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty

Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round

And the painted ponies go up and down

We're captive on the carousel of time

We can't return, we can only look behind

From where we came

And go round and round and round

In the circle game
I NOT ONLY cannot improve upon how Joni Mitchell describes the "Circle Game" of life, I -- and my wife -- have been doomed to not fully participate in it. My better half says there's one question she wants to ask Jesus when she dies, being that we live in a country where there's so few children even to adopt because so many parents don't want to be . . . and can make that so.

I'll bet you can guess what that might be.

We live in a society that feels free to take our pain and use it as a weapon to smash the natural law to politically correct bits. In fact, during one youth-group session, we sat there dumbfounded -- and seething -- as a "Catholic" theology professor speculated upon the possible ecclesiastical permissibility of "gay marriage" someday, on grounds that -- hey
-- infertile couples can't fulfill the procreative nature of matrimony, either.

A roomful of societally brainwashed Roman Catholic teen-agers nodded approvingly.

I wanted to kill the son of a bitch.
Who, naturally -- being a Catholic theologian teaching at a Jesuit university -- was impervious to objections raised on catechetical and natural-law grounds.

of a childless, middle-aged Catholic couple in the Midwest. I don't relish this opportunity to give you a glimpse into our world. To tell you the truth, I've been writing this in fits and starts.

When you take a hot knife and dig around in an open wound, you tend not to have a lot of staying power.

This, however, finally made me do it. "This" being Rod Dreher's "Crunchy Con" post on an article (and online discussion) in The Atlantic Monthly about the apparently grim and lonely dotage we Baby Boomers will be facing.

In his post, Dreher quotes extensively from an online observation by Atlantic
contributor Philip Longman:

Another relationship between fertility and aging is less obvious but also important to the future. Within the Baby Boom generation there was a pronounced disparity in birthrates. Those who remained childless or had just one or two children tended to be well educated, liberal, and secular. By contrast, the roughly 30 percent of Boomers who had three or more children tended be conservative, religious, and less well educated. Members of the later group, though only a minority of their own generation, produced more than 50 percent of the next generation.

Already, as I have argued elsewhere, this pattern in Boomer birth rates (which is much more extreme than in previous generations) has led to the country becoming more morally conservative and pro-family. As Dick Cavett once quipped, “If your parents forgot to have children, chances are you will as well.” The anti-natalism inherent in the modern liberal mindset leads to a gradual return of patriarchy, if only by default.

What does that mean for Boomers in retirement? A majority or near majority of younger Americans, having grown up in conservative and religious households, will tend to view childless Boomers through their parents eyes: as members of an irresponsible, alien tribe. Though the minority of Baby Boomers who rebelled against tradition have a hard time recognizing it, most people wind up adopting their parent’s belief systems, particularly if they become parents themselves. The apple rarely falls far from the tree. Accordingly, in the eyes of many, if not most, younger people, a Boomer without a family will be taken for an aging yuppie, a decaying narcissist, or ailing atheist—none of which stereotypes will be helpful in drawing public sympathy.

THAT'S. JUST. GREAT. If Longman is correct, the answer to "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?" (or 84) may well be . . . "No!"

All because my wife and I are going to be lumped together with all of the most pathological of my fellow Baby Boomers. Accused, tried, convicted and sentenced to die "alone and unloved" by the millennials and their children.

And the ghosts of our children -- our children who were so loved but never born -- will not be able to speak to their compatriots on our behalf.

They will not be able to come back to their childhood home to visit us, and to indulge the waves of childhood memories that, alas, never will engulf them. And we will not sit down together at the family table, eating my wife's wonderful cooking.

Neither will we all gather together at the Omaha homestead for my traditional Louisiana chicken-and-sausage gumbo on Christmas Eve, and I will not tell them stories of growing up down on the bayou. And my grandchildren will not ask me,
"Grandpa, why did black kids and white kids have to go to separate schools?" or
"Papa, how come great-grandma grew up so poor and never got to go to school?"

I WILL NEVER GET the chance to struggle at giving them my best inadequate answer, because our children and our grandchildren are not there, and we -- my wife and I -- are incomplete.

And on future Christmas mornings, our little house will bustle with the ghosts of children who never were.

They -- and their children who never were -- will play tug of war with the ghosts of long-dead dogs and listen to stories of "way back there then" from all the grandparents . . . who live only in memory. Then we all will open presents never bought, tearing through brightly colored wrapping paper that never left its cardboard tube.

And someone always will plaster someone's non-existent hair with non-existent bows.

Then after a Christmas alone with our thoughts, and with each other, the missus and I will sit down for a late supper at a table built for six as the old radio on the bookcase plays carols about a holy infant, a mother and child, on some far-away station.
So if you're walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello."