dual personalities

Grace and peace to you

Did you have a wonderful three-day weekend? Mine was quite pleasant. I went to a couple of estate sales and I showed great restraint, which always makes my puritan soul happy.

I rescued one piece of vintage needlepoint–a little Victorian foot stool with K’s in the design.

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And I got a giant fern at the grocery store for $12.99.

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I went to church and read the prayers of the people. I had lunch with my BFFs and caught up with them before they head off to distant and exotic lands. I also caught up with laundry and cleaning and yard work–all the things that go with home ownership.

I finished Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass which is really more creative non-fiction than fiction. Halfway through I realized that “the Browns” were a real sibling singing group popular in the ’50s and ’60s, not a fictional group imagined by the author. (Jim Ed Brown also had a solo career–remember “Pop a Top”?)

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Anyway, the book is reasonably well written and readable–although Bass uses the word ‘incredibly’ as an adverb way too much, a real no-no in my book.

I watched a couple of good movies. Spotlight (2015) about “the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core,” which actually won the Best Picture Oscar this year, is quite good.

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Everyone in it is good and Billy Crudup gives a stand-out performance in a small part. It is directed with care and restraint by Tom McCarthy. Maybe a little too much restraint, if you ask me…but effective.

Anyway, I looked up Tom McCarthy to see what else he has done and so watched The Cobbler (2014)–a picture excoriated as the worst film of the year by critics. It was a total box office bomb and a disaster for its star Adam Sandler, but I liked it.

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It is the story of a fourth-generation Jewish cobbler on the lower East Side, who is bored with his life when he stumbles upon a magical heirloom that allows him to become other people and see the world in a different way. I have no idea why people hated it so much. Perhaps they expected something different from Adam Sandler–over-the-top vulgarity and crude, slap-stick humor? This movie has none of that. (I’m not sure it was even rated R.) It is thoughtful and sly with good performances all around. Dustin Hoffman even makes an appearance. Perhaps it hits a little too close to home? Well, I say, give it a try on Netflix Watch Instantly.

On Memorial Day the boy and daughter #3 came over for a BBQ. Although all the TV news stations said it would rain all weekend, it never rained until the OM went out to barbeque. Haha, no kidding.

C’est la vie. Happy Tuesday.

“The greatest little man I ever met”*

It is appropriate that on this Memorial Day we toast Col. Elmer Ellsworth, who was the first “conspicuous casualty” and Union officer killed in the Civil War.

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He was killed on May 24, 1864, age 24, while removing a Confederate flag from the roof of the Marshall House Inn of Alexandria, Virginia at Lincoln’s behest, as the flag had been visible from the White House as a defiant sign of the growing rebellion.

“Remember Ellsworth” became a patriotic slogan: the 44th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment called itself the “Ellsworth Avengers.”

President Lincoln wrote the following letter to his parents:

To the Father and Mother of Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth:

My dear Sir and Madam, In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here, is scarcely less than your own. So much of promised usefulness to one’s country, and of bright hopes for one’s self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed, as in his fall. In size, in years, and in youthful appearance, a boy only, his power to command men, was surpassingly great. This power, combined with a fine intellect, an indomitable energy, and a taste altogether military, constituted in him, as seemed to me, the best natural talent, in that department, I ever knew. And yet he was singularly modest and deferential in social intercourse. My acquaintance with him began less than two years ago; yet through the latter half of the intervening period, it was as intimate as the disparity of our ages, and my engrossing engagements, would permit. To me, he appeared to have no indulgences or pastimes; and I never heard him utter a profane, or intemperate word. What was conclusive of his good heart, he never forgot his parents. The honors he labored for so laudably, and, in the sad end, so gallantly gave his life, he meant for them, no less than for himself.

In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child.

May God give you that consolation which is beyond all earthly power. Sincerely your friend in a common affliction —

A. Lincoln

Ellsworth’s funeral was the first of three held in the East Room of the White House during the war. The second, in 1862, was a service for the president’s 11-year-old son Willie. The third was Lincoln’s own.

Sigh. I’m not sure why Elmer Ellsworth came to mind, but he did, and he seems a worthy example of the American soldier whom we honor today.

Here’s Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the U.S.A,” which kind of says it all:

I hope I am never too blasé or jaded that this song doesn’t prompt a tear.

*A. Lincoln

Noli Timere

Benny's Scarecrow (Jim Loper's coat) by Andrew Wyeth

Benny’s Scarecrow (Jim Loper’s coat) by Andrew Wyeth

After spending most of her life scanning the horizon for slights and threats, genuine and imagined, she knew the real threat to her happiness came not from the dot in the distance, but from looking for it. Expecting it. Waiting for it. And in some cases, creating it. Her father had jokingly accused her of living in the wreckage of her future. Until one day she’d looked deep into his eyes and saw he wasn’t joking. He was warning her.
― Louise Penny, The Long Way Home

Wise words to be mindful of this Memorial Day weekend…

Have a good one and don’t be afraid!

*Seamus Heaney’s last words, a tweat to his wife in Latin meaning ‘don’t be afraid’.

 

TGIF

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It has been a busy week which included the annual meeting of our flyover institute and other stress-inducing business, so I am ready for a relaxing three-day weekend!

How about you?

(Photo from Simpsonscentral instagram)

Happy belated birthday, Mr. Zimmerman

As you probably already know, Tuesday was Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday.

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Thank goodness, he is still going strong and has just released Fallen Angels, his 37th LP and second straight album of American Songbook classics.

So in honor of his big day let’s listen to one of my favorites from 1981:

Dylan described “Every Grain of Sand” as “an inspired song that just came to me … I felt like I was just putting words down that were coming from somewhere else.”

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music

Because we’re just pilgrims passing through after all.

“Lots of people are wonderful, but you’re just the best.”*

Today we celebrate the birthday of the oft-quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803–April 27, 1882).

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It would be a good day to take down one of his books, blow off the dust and read it. It would also be a good day to take a walk–an activity he was fond of.

“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.”

I will also remind you that tomorrow (May 26) is the birthday of John Wayne, so you might want to charge up your DVR in anticipation of said day. TCM is, of course, running his movies all day, although it is not a very inspired line-up if you ask me.

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I will no doubt dig into my cache of John Wayne favorites and choose something else.

Speaking of JW, last week CBS ran a couple of classic (colorized) episodes of “I Love Lucy” from season 5 of the series–I’m not sure why. Originally broadcast in October of 1955, they centered on Lucy and Ethel trying to steal John Wayne’s footprints from in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the hilarity that ensues. I was never a huge fan of this show and its slapstick comedy, but I admit I laughed out loud watching these two episodes.

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Of course, John Wayne was the guest star and at one point Lucy says to him, “Lots of people are wonderful, but you’re just the best,”* and I couldn’t agree more.

The same goes for old Ralph Waldo Emerson. Have a great day and “write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year…”

He bids me sing

I had a scratchy throat and was fighting a cold all last weekend, so flying on Sunday kind of did my ears in and I am feeling not-so-good now…So this is all I’ve got.

‘Winter Sunshine’ (1930s or 1940s) by English artist Frederick William Elwell (1870-1958).

‘Winter Sunshine’ (1930s or 1940s) by English artist Frederick William Elwell (1870-1958)

I

The irresponsive silence of the land,

The irresponsive sounding of the sea,

Speak both one message of one sense to me:–

Aloof, aloof, we stand aloof, so stand

Thou too aloof bound with the flawless band

Of inner solitude; we bind not thee;

But who from thy self-chain shall set thee free?

What heart shall touch thy heart? what hand thy hand?–

And I am sometimes proud and sometimes meek,

And sometimes I remember days of old

When fellowship seemed not so far to seek

And all the world and I seemed much less cold,

And at the rainbow’s foot lay surely gold,

And hope felt strong and life itself not weak.

 

II

Thus am I mine own prison.

Everything

Around me free and sunny and at ease:

Or if in shadow, in a shade of trees

Which the sun kisses, where the gay birds sing

And where all winds make various murmuring;

Where bees are found, with honey for the bees;

Where sounds are music, and where silences

Are music of an unlike fashioning.

Then gaze I at the merrymaking crew,

And smile a moment and a moment sigh

Thinking: Why can I not rejoice with you?

But soon I put the foolish fancy by:

I am not what I have nor what I do;

But what I was I am, I am even I.

 

 

III

Therefore myself is that one only thing

I hold to use or waste, to keep or give;

My sole possession every day I live,

And still mine own despite Time’s winnowing.

Ever mine own, while moons and seasons bring

From crudeness ripeness mellow and sanitive;

Ever mine own, till Death shall ply his sieve;

And still mine own, when saints break grave and sing.

And this myself as king unto my King

I give, to Him Who gave Himself for me;

Who gives Himself to me, and bids me sing

A sweet new song of His redeemed set free;

he bids me sing: O death, where is thy sting?

And sing: O grave, where is thy victory?

 

–Christina Rosetti, “The Thread of Life”

“I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)” *

I’m back from my long weekend celebrating my niece’s wedding. It was fun being with my brother and his family.

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Chris with his son Foster

My dual personality was there with one of her sons.

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There was a lot of music.IMG_1896

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…and plenty of cousin time…

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Foster and the boy

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Cousins, including Ellen, the bride

Good times.

*e.e. cummings

Soldier, keep movin’ on*

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All this rain and cool weather is doing great things for the iris and for our grass–is it ever green!

In other news, the OM and the boy and I are jetting off this afternoon to Pennsylvania where my niece will get hitched this Saturday. Daughters #1, 2 and 3 all have prior engagements (two graduations and another wedding) so they are not coming. C’est la vie.

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The wedding is in Meadville, the home of Allegheny College. William McKinley, you will recall, attended this college and Clarence Darrow and Ida Tarbell graduated from it. The wedding is taking place at the Unitarian-Universalist Church.

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Fun fact: The song “Bittersweet Motel” by the Vermont jam band, Phish, was inspired when keyboardist, Page McConnell, left a wedding in Meadville and drove down to the Pittsburgh Airport.

Halfway between Erie and Pittsburgh
You’re putting me through hell
On the highway to the Bittersweet Motel

When the only tool you have is a hammer
Everything looks like a nail
And your living at the Bittersweet Motel

Indeed, there is no quick and/or easy way to get there, so this will be an adventure in more ways than not. But I am up for an adventure this weekend…how about you?

Safe travels to all who are traveling. See you ’round campus, man!

*Toby Mac

Mid-week pep talk

Today is the birthday of Ezio Pinza, Italian opera singer and Broadway star.

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So let’s all sing a rousing chorus of “Some Enchanted Evening” as a toast to Ezio and to cheer ourselves up!

C’mon now, did you sing along with Mary and Ezio?

Fun fact: Ezio Pinza died in 1957 at the age of 64 and his funeral was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. He was buried in the Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich, CT, with the likes of Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. Which begs the question: was Ezio an Episcopalian?

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