Archive for Uncategorized

Christian Pretzels…

I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with Christianity–a sine wave from mandatory Sunday School as a kid to “born again” in college, coffeehouse atheist in the ‘60s, Buddhist flirt in the ’70s, Episcopalian convert in the ‘80s, to unaffiliated quasi-believer in recent years. Not exactly a consistent pattern but it establishes my credentials as a pilgrim. I’m no longer a “true believer,” but the “faith” that remains is tested whenever I hear an evangelical Christian proclaim his or her support for the President who just bribed his porn star girlfriend to keep her quiet. read more

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In Search of Heroes

My wife thinks I write too much about the past. She’s concerned that it dates me and worries that readers will think I’m old and out of touch. I agree with her that it’s important to live in the present, messy as that present is, but the past gives us context and offers us lessons for the present.

In times of stress I often find solace in books, and last week’s news cycle drove me into a new translation of The Odyssey. I’ve tried it before; in 1996 I listened to Robert Fagels’ version on tape but couldn’t finish it. The new translation by Emily Wilson is a fluid retelling of the saga that breathes a contemporary feel into the ancient story without damaging its classical roots. It’s full of brave warriors, damsels in distress, dangerous ogres, duplicitous enemies, faithless gods, raging storms and at its center an action hero working his way home from the Trojan War. I was immediately sucked in. read more

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Running Rapids and Reading Obits…

I feel blessed with friends who are smart, up to date, and engaged in the world, but I’m bothered by a recent phenomenon. Increasingly, M and I find our conversations with friends begin with an organ recital – what hurts, new ailments, what needs to be replaced, good home remedies, doctors’ appointments, and physical therapy magicians – before we move on to the nation’s health.

We also talk about scanning newspaper obituaries for friends and the names of notable people we admire. This wasn’t the new normal until about a year ago. Now it is. Last Sunday, for the second week in a row, the long form obituaries in the New York Times’ were all of people in our decade of life. I immediately went to the Social Security Administration’s life expectancy calculator to see how long I have. read more

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A Friendship in Black and White

In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. A year later the Voting Rights Act and Great Society legislation followed. Schools in the South were being integrated. It was the Summer of Love in San Francisco. It was the year I graduated from law school at UC Berkeley. I truly believed we were entering the post-racial era.

Flash back 20 years to 1945; I was an eight year old 3rd grader at Isaac I. Stevens Elementary. America was fighting WWII on two fronts. Gas and sugar were rationed and Ted Williams was flying Marine F4U’s in the Pacific theater. read more

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Happy New Year – Welcome to Armageddon

Or is it?

In 1959, the Kingston Trio released a song entitled The Merry Minuet. Catchy little number about the state of world affairs:

They’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in
Spain
There’s hurricanes in
Florida
And
Texas needs rain

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The
French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don’t like anybody very much!!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off
And we will all be blown away!!
read more

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