Friday, August 24, 2007

School's Back


Did I ask for the designation? Indeed, I did not. Was I even Nicaraguan? Not entirely. I’ll let you ponder that, after the designation fades, otherwise there will be scandal. Or Hugh will climb the cage. Yes, the Hugh, the O’Connell, the original designee.

Hugh was a great mentor, I was just a lousy student. Hugh had metallic hair, I had a pony. Hugh claimed to have nine nipples, I had only the apparently God-given, yet meager, three. Hugh sampled bicameral falsetto orphan fish singing opera, leaving me in the dust with my Gwen Stefani CDs. Are you feeling me here? Do you have any idea of the shame of letting down your mentor, when the big ball of wax comes blowing out of the west?

Hugh told me that my biggest problem was nitroglycerine.

“Nitroglycerine is not a vegetable, Little Paschal,” he said. “It is a toy. You need to buy it by the dozen, and you need to forget about mouthwash.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Hugh,” I said.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Hugh, what?” said Hugh.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Hugh, Almighty Falafel Man.”

“That’s better. Now carry on with your nitro.”

We planted nitroglycerine trees all up and down the Yucatan coast. We breakfasted with the local Maya, eating boatloads of guava jelly on toast. Juanita was smitten with the metallic man; she thought he looked like Regis Philbin, only shinier. Yes, I know you’re wondering, so I’ll tell you: Juanita thought I looked like Milky the Toad, only she said it in Spanish, so it sounded like she thought I looked like the Governor of California, Conan the Barbarian . Come to think of it, he looks like Milky the Toad, too.

Hugh told me that Cortez was out. This time we would conquer central Mexico with limousines, a fleet of candy apple red Hyundais, or else we would airlift in an avalanche of terrestrial orchids, and live with the consequences.

“You do the math,” he said.

I can see it in your eyes: you doubt the Falafel Man. You think he is airborne fluff, elementary foot cheese in Quasimodo underwear. But, hear me out: I kid you not: Hugh the Almighty Falafel Man is a shaman. He comes from the land of the Mighty Falafel Elves, and he is dead serious about his calling. Forget about the minor fact that dead serious to Hugh looks like seriously demented to you and me. Forget about the fact that lacrosse was invented in Gary, Indiana, despite everything else you’ve ever heard. Forget about the fact that Blandis really is the only full grown leprechaun you’ll ever see, and that he WON”T be dressed in green.

It’s time for us to end this little Alpine Noodle Fest: I can see that Barret is edging towards the door. Marisa has lost count of the words that offend her; Kristina has run out of staples to stab dollar bills into her right thigh; Robert is counting sheep in Japanese; Video is on the verge of committing identity-theft on Jamie, while Jamie has figured out how to walk on water without all the usual hype. Sam has found the coolest desktop background: it is a satellite view of belly button lint. Evan is writing the sequel to the prequel he just wrote; Jennifer is playing a bass guitar with her teeth. Nik wonders if Mr. Booker will ever watch 300, or just say he did. Krystle is showing Chris how to box; he now thinks he is the next Ali. Krystle, on the other hand, thinks he is the next furniture polish remover, only the kind you get at Whole Foods, meaning organic, meaning it probably won’t do a thing you want it to. I’ve taken more waxy buildup off with an eggplant.

Welcome to the Wide World of Wonders, the leftovers of Hugh’s imagination, the U168.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

A Letter

August 20, 2007

The Right Reverend Gary Lillibridge
Bishop of West Texas
111 Torcido Road
San Antonio, TX 78209

Dear Bishop Lillibridge:

I am writing to offer my prayers for your upcoming trip to New Orleans, for the House of Bishops meeting convened, at least in part, to respond to the Primates’ Communiqué.

I respectfully ask that you and your colleagues respond to the communiqué with love and compassion, with a dedication to all Anglicans being welcome at the communion table, and with the strength of our own convictions as an evolving church.

I believe that we have no reason to apologize for TEC’s recent moves in support of full inclusion for our LGBT communicants; I am committed to that day coming much sooner than later. However, I see no reason why TEC’s evolution need be matched step by step by the rest of the Anglican Communion. I support the journeys of all the Communion’s churches, those in concert with and those divergent from ours. The genius of Anglicanism has been its ability to hold a communal space in the midst of our diversity.

The Primates’ lack of authority to issue ultimatums notwithstanding, as well the apparent disregard for TEC’s own established polity, I believe we are called to remain at the table as witnesses to what makes us Anglicans in the first place. Paul Avis’ words in the Communion Matters document go straight to the heart:

“The Anglican vocation is to create a spiritual liberty in which individuals may bear witness to the truth as they see it, submitting themselves to the criticism of their peers without fear of ecclesiastical censure or censorship…”

I’m troubled by TEC’s willingness, when asked in recent years, to absent itself from meetings in the larger Communion, as a show of love for our global sister churches who are troubled by our actions. To abandon our commitment to witness to our truth, as we see it, seems to me to be an abdication of our love for ourselves and our sisters and brothers. To sit in prayerful difference at the table is to live out our Anglican vocation in a powerful way; the injury to all is in the leaving.

May God bless you on your journey.


Paschal Murat Booker
The Episcopal Church of Reconciliation

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Taredartzet shnorhavor! (Armenian)

100 Words for LEDL:

Sister Laura’s birthday. Once the apple of my eye: a tiny blonde, blue-eyed angel (Miss Boo, she were, then), born in Frankfurt (we Texan chauvinists tend to forget these elsewhere nativities in our own family) 47 years ago.

Was she two, then, when we walked hand in hand down to the bakery and sweetshop off base? Back with our brown bagged treasures of brödchen and sweet tarts, bought for mere pfennigs.

I was Walden’s age. What a different time. No way in hell would I allow such an unsupervised venture.

Glad of heart to be back in her circle. Feliz.

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Gatherings: Around the House

These, from Louie Crew's Anglican Pages:

Michele Cox:

I think I've pinpointed my own issue with the choices the ABC has been making. He said, "As a bishop I have to keep people around the table in discussion on this."

The thing is, as a host - which is the metaphor underlying this part of the conversation - I have two relevant responsibilities:

1. Encourage civil behavior among my guests - if you are all guests in my house, you are all expected to be civil and respectful toward one another.

2. Should that fail, and should some guest(s) say of other(s) "I'm sorry, Michele, it's them or me!" my answer must be "I'm really, really sorry to hear that: I know we will miss you."

There really is no other way to deal with that sort of social blackmail. And that is where I think the ABC is falling down on his hostly duties - not in saying that out loud, but in making it clear that should he be forced to it, that is the only answer he can give.

And Louie himself, in response to Rowan Williams:

The Archbishop of Canterbury is in Toronto, where he gave an interview earlier today. Here's a clip that caught my attention. He was asked to explain why he was once an advocate for the normalization (my word) of homosexuality in the life of the Church, and now seems to be taking a contrary position. The heart of his response:

"It's partly an evolution of different kinds of responsibility in the Church. As a theologian and as a teacher for many years naturally I had the liberty to raise certain questions and to express personal opinions on the matter. As a bishop I have to keep people around the table in discussion on this."

Sez Louie:

I constantly hear people say that being a parent means that they cannot take the risks they took when they were single, that being a priest means that they cannot take the risks they took when they were lay and had not vowed to obey their bishop, that being a bishop means that they cannot take the risks they took when....

It is all too easy to mask cowardice as a sacrifice of personal conviction for a "greater good." Color me unimpressed.

Had my own father not constantly taken risks, I might have grown up to be equally fearful. Watching him take risks, even when those risks frightened or embarrassed me, taught me that the world does not fall apart when one stands alone with conviction. The power of that witness increases with the risks that attend it.


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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Read This

Louie Crew witnesses to the power of Holy Spirit. Read it all the way through:

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007


An exercise copped from Katie Sherrod’s Desert's Child blog (you can click on the link in the blogroll: the post is Playing Tag With Seven Things). I know a few readers who will have fun with this, at least one of whom will enjoy a good excuse to avoid whatever’s pressing at her day job.

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies: I typically do not give away books, because most of the books I now read are from the library: not mine to give, ya know? So, let me answer this question a few different ways, though it’s an insane question, given the hoards of books I have loved through the years. The last book of mine that I gave away was a treasure: Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter, a book that I had for close to 20 years: a slim gorgeous haunting fictionalized mosaic of the life of Buddy Bolden, one of the early—and somewhat apocryphal—titans of New Orleans jazz, who spent most of his adult life wasting away at the state asylum in Jackson, Louisiana.

Two books I would give away if I had a mind to do so: Alain Borer’s Rimbaud in Abyssinia and Grace Paley’s Collected Stories. One of my many obsessions is the “silence” of Rimbaud’s years in Africa, after he threw over his life as a poet in France: clearly Borer was obsessed even more than I. An equally compelling aspect of this book is Rosemary Waldrip’s translation: her translations of Rimbaud’s poetry are by far the best and most moving I have read.

I had heard the name Grace Paley through the years, and through some form of my not unusual dysfunctional mental calculus, I had dismissed her out of hand, without having read a word of her prose. I think I may have read some of her poetry, but just as likely not. When I was on the verge of finally meeting her (she was coming to SA for Gemini Ink’s Autograph Series), I read the Collected Stories, and was blown away by the freshness of her voice, and its wonderfully cubist syncopation, English turned on its ear. It was, as I have said before, Padgett Powell before there was a PP, not surprising, given the closeness of Donald Barthelme (PP’s mentor) and Grace.

Though I don’t exactly give their books away, I am always proselytizing PP and his wacky blood brother Barry Hannah.

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music: Probably Chick Corea’s Light As a Feather album. Senior year in college, so that should give you some idea of what else was going on to facilitate the changed way of hearing. The experience took me from listening on the outside to listening within the music, and what a feast there was to listen to: Chick’s rapid fire lyricism, Stanley Clarke’s blowing out the limits of his bass, Joe Henderson’s sax and flute, Airto’s percussion, Flora Purim’s voice straight out of the rainforest. LAAF is not even my favorite Chick/RTF album, much less my favorite anything, but it was clearly the dweller on the threshold. LAAF took me right back to re-hearing Chick’s work on Stan Getz’s Sweet Rain: gorgeous.

3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue: Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion. The first movie I bought, though I almost made the mistake of believing I was buying it for a young boy client of mine. The fatherless boy in me weeps from beginning to end. The same with the contemporary version of A Little Princess (NOW we know the secret of the princess cup!). And, since I have watched Tina’s own fatigueless movie countless times, I suppose we must drop in Sense and Sensibility; I haven’t done it that many times yet, but I suspect that the Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice will end up in this category as well.

4. Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief: Ever changing: Alan Bates in the 70s; Stevie Wonder, the same, until the horrifying pap of "I Just Called to Say..." (Stevie possessed by the ghost of The Captain and Tennille, EEK!); Pynchon, until Mason & Dixon, though I am completely back with Against the Day; probably Daniel Day-Lewis; Van Morrison, until, well, until I don't know what, but it's gone, real real gone; those goofy girls in Absolutely Fabulous; probably Mary C. Earle talking about just about anything; this list could get ridiculous, I better just stop...

5. Name a work of art you’d like to live with: Is that live with, or live in? Again, too much to choose from. I already live with one of them: Tina’s own Gwyneth painting. It is iconic: the green mask, the proud woman out of the dark fens. Take a look: Also on the list: Larry Rivers’ painting in the McNay, any of Van Gogh’s electric blue paintings, the Fauves, and I have a feeling there is something out there that I have completely missed.

6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life: How in the hell to answer this question: ALL my favorites penetrated my life. Let’s answer it this way: What books were there when you became a real reader, and not just someone who pretended to read? Here they are: spring semester, freshman year, Father John Barth’s (not the non-Father John Barth) class on Religious Dimensions in the Modern Novel: Faulkner’s Light in August and A Fable; Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair and The Power and the Glory; Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Just before that was an entire January spent reading all the Hesse I could get my hands on, starting with Siddhartha. Pynchon, of course, blew my mind open; John Gardner’s The Sunlight Dialogues and John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Ebony Wood took me off on yet other adventures, and, of course, Padgett Powell (A Woman Named Drown, Typical, and Edisto) and Barry Hannah (The Tennis Handsome and High Lonesome) laid me to waste. These are not books that penetrated in the same sense that To Kill A Mockingbird (a vision in itself) penetrated Katie Sherrod’s life, but they certainly penetrated my life as a reader and, eventually, as a writer.

7. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh: Not a clue, but two comics who always made laugh hysterically back in their glory days of the ‘70s were Robert Klein (before he ran out of material) and Albert Brooks. I can still pretty much crack up, just by looking at Brooks, waiting for something to explode. The funniest comic I ever saw live was Ellen DeGeneres, long before she made it big, back at a tiny French Quarter theater. I pretty much crack up at just about anything she does, even now.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007


Every kind of thing...

One way, and then another.

In his sermon this past Sunday, our summer seminarian Matt reminded us of the news that is not news: that God is here. Here and now. Bemused, he is, by the not infrequent testimonies of the faithful to God’s having “shown up” in our midst, belying the obvious notion that it is impossible for God to show up where she ain’t never left.

Not a new notion, as we all know, and as we invariably have to remind ourselves: I have been among the loudest repeatedly to excoriate a God who was quietly about her business of waiting upon me to finish my latest in a series of pobrecito mini-dramas about her infernal leaves of absence. In that, I am Benedictine and Bill Murray’s Phil Connors to the core: every day is a new beginning; every day is Groundhog Day.

I was a good halfway down that same road all over again today, marveling (not four days after the good Matt’s reminder) at a “gently” “growing” “sense” of “God’s” “presence.” And a decidedly prosaic day it was: morning rummage to prep my son for his summer camp, out the door and through the natural arbor on the way to the car, crackly and completely unnecessary radio frazzle, son-chatter from the back seat, quick zip down a favorite alternate route to the camp, workers at the mansions on the grand avenue readying for the day’s heave, long-ago Margaret’s bicycle commute, and then, quick as a rattlesnake bite, red white and blue lights twirling in my rear view mirror: “Thirty-seven in a thirty, sir.” Documents passed through the open window, he walks back to his vehicle: my son frets his late arrival, I fret briefly about a most unwelcome and unneeded expense, but am able to decide and implement the decision to just chill out and relax. About thirty seconds later, my “arresting officer” hands me back my license, delivers my verbal warning, and wishes me a good day.

Certainly not “fool enough” to attribute my release to God’s showing up, but I was still barreling down my highway notion of her “seeping” in, right through the school drop-off, waiting in a veritable methadone clinic-sized line for coffee at Central Market, plopping down for 20 minutes of Aubrey/Maturin, quick call to welcoming Louise at my place of employ, Tina-kiss as she heads out the door, Laurel and Hardy fool-dogs in the street (medium-sized black mutt and, hilariously, a fawn Old English mastiff, wandering the street) as I take blue dog Blue out for his constitutional, and back for 30 minutes of the increasingly moving middle to late passages of Tommy Lee Jones’ The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Not until I am rounding the back end of Sam Walton’s dime store, sweat beginning to pool under my shirt on the way to the bus stop, not until then does it hit me that I am off and running towards a big “God has arrived” celebration in my soul, through all this day’s meandering inner tube ride down a pass of Class 1, nary a bump, river water.

What was percolating up was this growing sense of “promise.” “Good news.” “Things breaking through,” as the good Lord sought me out, for whatever her purposes. Annunciation dropped firmly into place just south of Tire and Lube: “Listen, bud: this is what standing in the garden feels like all the time”: God’s undertow (Garp’s Under Toad, only on the sublime side), the constant thread, the bread crumbs on the path, the staccato ching of the paleta man’s neighborhood cart. As often as we wander off and back, she’s far too hep to crack wise with “Where ya been?” “How ya been?” is more like it, popping a butter pecan paleta in the prodigal kisser before any inane chatter gets going.

And then another:

It took a couple of years for me to get there: I wasn’t even sure I would: there was never any compelling reason provided: but, get there I did, over the last few days, watching serial snippets of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

It maundered for a while: a craggier than craggy Tommy Lee, the surprise of Melissa Leo, Dwight Yoakum’s acting all in the shoulders hunched up to his ears, and Barry Pepper’s particularly vile toe hygiene in front of his living room TV, but godalmighty did Tommy Lee “get” the ease of that relationship between Pete and Mel, something I saw time and again between my uncles and Jesus, Ignacio, and even Modesto, and countless folks who just showed up, while passing through. Got that, too: Melquiades appearing out of nowhere in a barn doorway, Pete with the language to smooth the transition, pave the welcome. Grim, seedy surroundings, but lush cinematography when Mel rhapsodizes to Pete about his little village of Jimenez, back in the mountains of Coahuila.

It took a while, slow learner, for me to recognize that we’d been here before, as Tommy Lee’s Call hauled Duvall’s Gus all the way back to Texas from Montana in Lonesome Dove, but it didn’t take away, just threw another nice fresh load of guano into the compost.

It’s when the film narrows in on Pete and Mike that the story deepens, and I felt myself bleeding through into God all over again: Pete, in kidnapping Mike to “assist” in taking Mel back for burial in Jimenez, is taking the vilest of the vile to his bosom, asking nothing more (and nothing less) than that he take ownership of his actions and walk in the dead man’s clothes and shoes. Drink from his cup. Yes, lots of predictable events along the way: but, the lovely surprise of Mel’s “family,” and the sweetness of the final burial. Next morning, Mike sleeping like a babe, Pete kicks his boot, says, “You can go now.”

Somewhere way back in my overstuffed vault of inconsequential information, I remember some film critic saying that Robert Altman’s Thieves Like Us was his Faulkner film, even though TLU was not written by WF. More than that, I think: that TLU was THE Faulkner film that no one had ever managed to “get,” from the man’s own novels themselves.

About six years ago, I sat through a sadly eviscerated version of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. The feel was there, Matt Damon was perfect as John Grady Cole, as was Lucas Black as Jimmy Blevins, but the wonderful wandering coda at the novel’s end was completely gone. The painstaking, heartbreaking commitment to “make things right.” No other part of that novel (a novel I love, from beginning to end), sits as indelibly inscribed on my heart.

Well, lo and behold, Tommy Lee found those eviscerated traces floating out there in the ether and “made things good” as he and Mike wandered down to Jimenez.

Julian of Norwich: “It seemed to me that if there had been no sin, we should all have been pure and as like our Lord as he created us. And so in my folly before this time I often wondered why, through the great prescient wisdom of God, the beginning of sin was not prevented. For then it seemed to me that all would have been well… Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well."

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007


From WHERE DO WE STAND? (A Background Paper on Gay & Lesbian Inclusion in the Episcopal Church, compiled by Susan Russell):

In our tradition, priests and bishops have the authority to pronounce God’s blessing within the community of faith. They do so not by their own power, but as instruments of the grace (blessing) of God within the Church. Their authority to bless, too, finds its meaning in the two great Sacraments.

When the Church chooses “to bless” something it is declaring that this particular person or persons or thing is a gift/blessing from God and his/her/its/their purpose is to live in (or, in the case of things, to assist in) covenanted relationship with God (and with all creation), i.e., to bless God in return.

To bless the relationship between two men or two women is to do this very thing: to declare that this relationship is a blessing from God and that its purpose is to bless God, both within the context of the community of faith. If the Church believes that same-sex relationships show forth God’s blessing when they are lived in fidelity, mutuality, and unconditional love, then this blessing must be owned and celebrated and supported in the community of faith.

[Those italics are mine. They do not do so by their own power: those words ring loudest.]

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