A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of year for a journey:

The way steep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.’

T.S. Eliot

Journey of the Magi

Our journey begins again today, this 28th day of November, 2021.

Everybody knows, even those of us who have lived most unadventurously what it is to plod on for miles, it seems, eagerly straining your eyes towards the lights that, somehow, mean home. How difficult it is, when you are doing that to judge distances! In pitch darkness, it might be a couple of miles to your destination, it might be a few hundred yards. So it was, I think with the Hebrew prophets, as they looked forward to the redemption of their people. They could not have told you, within a hundred years, within five hundred years, when it was the deliverance would come.

Msgr. Ronald Knox

Sermon on Advent


Thanksgiving is past. We must give thanks for life. We must go on praying for our divided nation. We will be glancing at our investment sheets and bank accounts as, once again, millions of us prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior after the four weeks of the penitential Advent season whcih, of course, always seems anything but penitential amid the orgiastic holiday hype.

But, of course, who of us does not dream of boarding that chimerical one-horse sleigh and “dashing through the snow” down some moon-lit trail of glistening tree-tops? Or, with Burl Ives, of having a “Holly, Jolly Christmas”.

Of course, we know we have to pay for it– which leads us, entirely against our wishes, to vexed thoughts of the economic situation awaiting us, this year especially, at the end of that visionary moon-lit trail….

It could be fairly said that Presidents have less control over the economy than we might believe, or that political partisans would have us believe. But even the liberal New York Times has conceded that the current Presidency is an exception to the rule. President Biden and Congressional Democrats have made specific policy decisions that have led to dangerously rising inflation.

The Administration “went big” with the stimulus passed by that Democrat-dominated Congress last March. It contained $1.9 trillion in pandemic relief on top of a separate $900 billion package that passed three months earlier. That sent an extra $2.8 trillion in federal money circulating through the economy while, according to the Times and what they call “mainstream analysts”, economic activity was trending only a few hundred billion dollars a year short of good health. This would seem to have sent too much money chasing too few goods — the standard definition of the causes of inflation. That would be too much government spending chasing too few goods. Perhaps, one might argue, that that spending served to replace lost income from people not working, voluntarily or otherwise. Perhaps, just perhaps, it went into savings.

This would seem to be, to an non-economically savvy mind such as mine, an economy feverishly teetering on the border between rampant inflation and the above-referenced economic “good health,” and due primarily to the actions of the President elected this time last year.

About the same time last spring that the Times and those analysts were taking the temperature of the national economy, President Biden offered up his so-called “American Jobs Plan” billed as an infrastructure initiative. Of course it was stuffed with things that did little for either creating jobs or building infrastructure. It reportedly raised corporate tax rates back above that of most developing countries, slowing wage growth, in all likelihood. Right?

Doesn’t sound great.

That was last spring. Now the Administration has put before us the so-called Build Back Better plan. Say those words slowly, ‘trippingly ‘or the tongue,’ as Nabokov might say, then, upon examining its “wish list” of social spending, repeat after me, keeping a straight face:



Then, consider something else that hasn’t gotten better and which was just reaching “critical mass” about the time starry-eyed President Joe and the Democrats were preparing to serve up this holiday pie. I refer to illegal immigration and the fact that, as of last March, illegal border crossings were setting records, including a record number of unaccompanied children (18,800 versus 11,000 in May, 2019, the previous high under President Trump.)

It continues to get worse. And it’s costing us.

The border we’re crossing as a nation careening down that moon-lit trail is the one separating reason from unreason. Or tragedy from farce.

But, buckle up. It’s nearly Christmastime. We’ll climb aboard our sleighs and go “laughing all the way.”



How horrible is China’s persecution of religious peoples and other dissenters? Ask any member of the Falun Gong sect, the Chinese Muslim Uyghurs or any Christian church, including the Chinese Catholic Church.

One Christian recently spoke out:

Li Yuese is a member of a house church in Sichuan, a province in southwest China. After being picked up in a raid in 2018 and serving a period of “criminal detention”, he says he was held for ten months in a windowless basement “transformation” center without ventilation, according to an interview he gave recently to Radio Free Asia. He says he was beaten, verbally abused and subject to other forms of mental torture while receiving only two meals a day without any time outside. He said he took to bashing his head against the wall because death seemed preferable to life in his darkness.

This is how you come between people and their God in an aggressively anti-religious country that brooks no interference with its power.

These “transformation centers” are run by the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front work Department. It is in the business of brain washing Christians. Priests have been known to disappear for five to ten years at a stretch.

This is the government with which my pope and his Vatican lieutenants have concluded — and this year renewed — an agreement that insists on permitting government-appointed, invalidly ordained bishops of the so-called Chinese Patriotic Church to assert their dubious influence and oversight, at the Communist government insistence, over church affairs, while validly ordained bishops and clergy of the faithful underground Catholic still loyal to Rome, having endured generations of torture, imprisonment and persecution for resisting Communist control, have now been left naked to their determined enemy.

The Vatican has offered no reasonable explanation for this reversal of the prior policy of uncompromising, undiluted support for long-suffering underground Chinese Catholics. The reversal is baffling, inexplicable and cannot fail to demoralize faithful Catholics in that huge country.

That is a tragedy and a damn shame. What is this pope thinking?


It was the late scholar Roger Scruton who identified the cultural upheaval through which we are suffering as the “culture of repudiation”. We must resist it with all our cultural might. It originated, as did — and does –so much that is poisoning our national life, among that ever expanding multitude who profess an evermore aggressive leftist-to-socialist ideology. Theirs is the spirit of revolution that throws out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. And that’s an overly gentle metaphor for what’s happening here.

Roger Kimball, editor of the journal, The New Criterion, writing in the November, 2021 issue, observes that “the curious, even hypocritical nature of this (culture of) repudiation is especially patent in the most privileged and affluent precincts of our culture, in the Ivy League writ large — all those institutions that, once upon a time, were devoted to perpetuating our civilization but which now, marinated it too much money, spend their time and seemingly bottomless animus deploring everything about America and the civilization that fed it.”

And, of course, to their mind, what fed this civilization was essentially racist. Their answer is — more racism, in the guise of anti-racism.

Columbus, Cortez and other Europeans were, upon occasion, guilty of savagery and racism. I don’t doubt that. Of course, I don’t know this for a fact, but I have been instructed thus by historians I trust. Those historians are honest about that. The leftist historians, of course, make a point of ignoring the occasional savagery and barbarism that reined among the natives the Europeans encountered. To do otherwise, Kimball and others have noted, would render the Left’s moral outrage ludicrous. Rousseau’s Noble Savage was never entirely noble.

But Kimball suggests that those savages who suffered at European hands are mere props for the writers and activists. “The real focus of their energy,” he submits,” is against America and the European civilization that embodies it.”

Fed it, embodied it….

Kimball goes on to point out the irony — and hypocrisy — feeding and embodied in the Left’s position. To do so, he cites historian Keith Windschuttle who in his book, The Killing of History, says of the Leftist ideologues, “they themselves…bear all the characteristics of the Eurocentrism they condemn in Columbus (and) Cortez.”

How so?

Well, for them, Kimball opines, ” repudiating Columbus( et, al.) is merely a pretext for a larger repudiation of the culture that supports and flatters them. It is as disingenuous as it is repulsive. But it seems quite clear that the attacks will not end until their plump sources of support begin to be loaded onto the hecatombs of their juvenile and malicious fury.”

Ole Roger, for my tastes, is being a bit too oblique here, especially in his resort to that most obscure of words (plural form), “hecatombs”. It refers to the large-scale sacrifices to the gods favored by the ancient Greeks, such as the propitiatory slaughter of 100 cattle at one time. Is he suggesting that the now universally liberal-to-woke institutions of higher education, i.e. the Ivy League, Stanford, the Seven Sisters, etc.,etc., that currently feed (and embody) all this political correctness and “wokeness” will themselves be sacrificed –ruined, slaughtered, burned, destroyed, devoured – to propitiate those gods who demand, among many other destructive things, selective, revisionists readings of history?

And is he suggesting that only when all our valued cultural institutions– universities, libraries, museums, churches — lie in ashes or been transformed to resemble the dreary, repressed, state-controlled institutions of a socialist dystopia will the activists be satisfied?

Sounds about right to me. And that will give us much to mourn. For soon thereafter, all of American civilization and our liberties will lie in ashes as well.

And let’s face it — those false gods worshiped by the hordes of rampaging cultural hedgehogs among us will never be satisfied.

Perhaps this is the true global warming, the fire that will never be consumed, hell on earth.

Deliver us, O Lord!


I suddenly find myself, only an hour advanced from the night’s sleep on this late October morning, thinking of a fine and innocent moment with a childhood friend, long lost, named Lorraine. It had snowed….we were walking. There were — crystals.

Meanwhile, each moment is nudging me further away from memory of those crystals into this new day; I sit here, exterior darkness only slowly lifting on the street with the falsely evocative name Caribbean Way, as I hear of a great, raging Nor’easter sweeping into New England. It is full of rain, not snow.

But I have known these damp autumnal Nor’easters, have seen them batter the window pane, had them lash my face, seep into my shoes. They can do harm, but like all weather, they can cleanse, rupture, gray over and necessarily, in nature’s way, sweep away the humdrum routines and securities of the average sunny day. Oh, if only that were all they flood and blow down and sweep away!

To paraphrase Tolstoy: all fair and sunny days are alike, but stormy days are stormy in their own way.

In the darkness without, I hear the bleating of the truck backing into the ugly utility area one door down. It is trash day. I must put out the trash.

In exactly one moment, the little hockey puck-size automatic voice machine in the dining area will send the pleasant, comforting disembodied, faux-human voice of a faux-human named Alexa — send it throughout this tin and vinyl space announcing the weather for this Florida day

There, I hear it…..

Right now in Largo, it is 54 degrees. Today’s forecast calls for mostly sunny weather, with a high of 84 and a low of 62 degrees.

So, at last, it is cooling here in the subtropics. The dank, relentless, unchanging heat of the five-month summer may at last be breaking, for the moment.

Another sunny day.

As for the lingering darkness — darkness, like cool weather, can be a comfort in Florida, for it sometimes seems a clime in which, like the prison cells of savage miscreants, the lights are always left on so the guards can keep an eye on them. But that is only my perception. There is a fair amount of ragged, private beauty here, too, between the macadam and utility areas. And who doesn’t like a sunny day?

The fact is, people, like raindrops, are raining down on this ‘paradise.’ Or, escaping to it. I did. Or I tried to. To escape, that is.

Good grief!

I had not meant to write so much. I had meant only simply to write of that moment with little Lorraine, my friend.

Her name was Lorraine Peters. Her older sister, friend to my teenage sister, was Anne. Both girls were red-headed with freckles, like my sister. On that winter’s day, we both would have been wearing winter coats. We were, perhaps, nine-years-old, maybe ten. I don’t recall how we happened to be together on a winter’s evening walking down steep, snow-covered Pope’s Hill Street to the corner of what had once been a dirt road named Sewell Street but was now a paved street named Salina Road. ( A far cry from Caribbean Way.) I lived a half block to west on Neponset Avenue. Lorraine lived perhaps two hundred yards to the southeast across an empty field on Freeport Street.

If the field was still there and not yet built over with a supermarket, or perhaps a supermarket under construction, then it was perhaps winter, 1957. I can’t be sure. Can’t pinpoint it.

It was time for both Lorraine and me to be home for supper, I’m sure.

The snow was fresh, the air clear and cold. The new snowfall — it had only been a moderate snowstorm, perhaps four or five inches — would soon be soiled with city grime, sand and dog urine. But now, it was pure and blue in the new darkness. And there had been enough of it, and apparently enough wind, to form little banks on street corners.

Lorraine would have been wearing a stocking cap. She was not pretty. No, rather plain, but very nice.

Had we been sledding on Pope’s Hill? Did we have our sleds with us? Was it before or after Christmas? I don’t recall. Lorraine was an intelligent little girl. Mature, good company. But I was not often in her company.

Suddenly, at the corner of Selina and Pope’s Hill (a short street likely named for some long-ago Yankee merchant long before we Irish moved to the neighborhood), Lorraine and I paused to admire a little bank of the new snow. It glowed — was there a dim street light nearby or was it after dinner already and a full moon was illuminating this bank of whiteness?

Or did that snow bank just seem to glow of its own cold magical inner essence? The fragile glow of the beautiful.

And suddenly I heard Lorraine in her high, buoyant voice say, “look at the crystals!”

She was talking of those pinpoints of light, like a starry firmament, that are the property of all freshly fallen snow.

And the pure essence of being civilized, springing up among people even so young as we were, is the capacity to discern beauty in nature, and to note it to another human.

Had I been with one of my young male friends, would he have pointed out that sparkle imbedded in the new-fallen snow? Were we young boys quite that “civilized” yet? Wasn’t it in the feminine nature to see it and, more especially, to note it? Am I permitted to speculate in these contentious times that the feminine spirit might well be the vanguard of civilization? For a snowbank should never just be — a snowbank.

“Look at the crystals!”

Even for Lorraine to see that glow and to name it “crystals” was to leave a crystalline impression on my nine (or ten) year old imagination.

I believe we parted soon thereafter. Perhaps we were pulling our sleds.

Over the next few years, Lorraine and Anne Peters from Freeport Street would be a presence in my young world, though I did not see that much of either of them and Lorraine was not among my immediate friends.

Then one day, well before I became an adult, the Peters family moved away.

But my sister Anne was one who, throughout her life — especially after the advent of the internet age — seemed to strive to re-connect with lost, almost forgotten neighbors. And while she was closer in age to Anne Peters, and knew her better, she received one day — I forget how or why — an internet correspondence from Lorraine Peters who was now living somewhere like Connecticut.

An exchange continued for a period between them. I know I mentioned to my sister that vivid moment of the snowy crystals and, as I sit here (with the sun up now behind the blinds, the day advancing), I hope she somehow passed that observation on to Lorraine, though I doubt she would have recalled that shared moment that made such an impression on me.

Then one day my sister informed me that she’d learned from Lorraine that she was mortally ill, probably with cancer. She would have been in her sixties, not that terribly old, probably married with children, even grandchildren. News of her death followed soon thereafter. The girl who’d seen the crystals was gone.

Five Septembers ago, my sister also fell mortally ill (with cancer) and left us. Therefore any further details about how she came to be in contact with Lorraine Peters is gone. So much left the world with my sister.

But that crystalline childhood moment remains, fleeting as that vanished snowbank, imbedded in memory. A young girl’s sensitive awareness, leading to an instant of shared perception. A civilizing bond in the early hours of two lives.

God rest you, Lorraine. Thank you for the crystals. Though I am in Florida, I will always long to see the winter’s first snow. I must see it again, with all its hazards. I must not forget you, my little neighbor, as, at this hour, in the year 2021, rain and wind assault the bare corner of Selena and Pope’s Hill Street, and washes the odd candy wrapper down the gutters in the gray light.

By the way, it’s not trash day. That’s tomorrow.


This is found in the writer’s preface to a work whose title, perhaps even whose content — in the manner in which it makes of a West Indian sailor aboard a Bombay to London merchant ship a sometimes odious and undeniably complex metaphor — poses problems for modern shibboleths and sensibilities. And, though I aspire always to challenge “political correctness” I deem it unfortunate that Conrad didn’t stay with either of the original titles, i.e., A Tale of the Sea, or Children of the Sea.

The work ultimately became kn0wn as , The N****r of the Narcissus. It is a profound work, and a great “tale of the sea.”

What follows, as noted, are the introductory paragraphs of the novel’s preface, Conrad’s famous artistic manifesto of what some have characterized as “literary impressionism.”

I’m fond of it. It follows here:

A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line. And art itself may be defined as a single-minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the visible universe ( emphasis added), by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying its every aspect. It is an attempt to find in its forms, in its colors, in its light, in its shadows, in the aspects of matter and in the facts of life what of each is fundamental, what is enduring and essential — their one illuminating and convincing quality — the very truth of their existence. The artists then, like the thinker or the scientist, seeks the truth and makes his appeal. Impressed by the aspect of the world the thinker plunges into ideas, the scientist into facts — whence, presently, emerging they make their appeal to those qualities of our being that fit us best for the hazardous enterprise of living. They speak authoritively to our common sense, to our intelligence, to our desire of peace or to our desire of unrest; not seldom it our prejudices, sometimes to our fears, often to our egoism — but always to credulity. And their words are heard with reverence, for their concern is with weighty matters: the cultivation of our minds and the proper care of our bodies, with the attainment with the attainment of our ambitions, with the perfection of the means and the glorification of our precious aims.

It is otherwise with the artist.

Confronted with the same enigmatical spectacle the artist descends within himself, and in that lonely region of stress and strife, if he be deserving and fortunate,he finds the terms of his appeal. His appeal is made to our less obvious capacities: to that part of our nature which, because of the warlike conditions of existence is necessarily kept out of sight within the more resisting and hard qualities — like the vulnerable body within a steel armor. His appeal is less loud, more profound, less distinct, more stirring — and sooner forgotten. Yet its effect endures forever….

He (the artist) speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation – and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hopes, in fears, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity — the dead to the living and the living to the unborn….

Conrad refers to music as “the art of arts.” But in striving to achieve the musicality of which language is capable, or the visual properties and qualities of painting or sculpture, he writes…

…it is only through an unremitting never-discouraged care for the shape and ring of sentences that an approach can be made to plasticity, to color,and that the light of magic suggestiveness may be brought to play for an evanescent instant over the commonplace surface of words: of the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage.

I find myself wondering, given these sentiments and convictions of Conrad, if he ever tried his hand a poetry, for it is in that genre more than any other, arguably, that words are supreme. Flannery O’Connor, a great fan of Conrad’s, though, like him never a poet, and a very different writer stylistically, told a correspondent that when she spoke of the moral basis of poetry being ” the accurate naming of the things of God,” she meant ” about the same that Conrad meant when he said that his aim as an artist was to render the highest possible justice to the visible universe. For me the visible universe is a reflection of the invisible universe.

Here’s to Joseph and Flannery — who with their words try to make us see what is most worthy of seeing.


I’m a Suffolk University alumni. I got the alumni magazine today and learned about a Suffolk PHD student in something called “applied developmental psychology” who is working in something called the Youth Equity and Sexuality Lab to explore “the impact of far-right ideologies on Black women college students.” She notes that feminist scholar Moya Bailey coined a term for this. It’s “misogynoir”, defined as “racist misogyny directed toward Black women.”

This PHD student attended a small liberal arts college where she majored in dance and psychology. “I wrote an article called ‘Dancing Around White Supremacy” about (inclusion) issues in my program.”

Ah! Now I have seen bullshit dancing.


Today is his birthday.

The doorbell rang one spring evening at 210 Neponset Avenue. It was — 1957? I think so. Or was it 1956?

I was in the kitchen. I was ten. Or, was I nine?

I was probably just putting something away, a dish or something. I don’t know. I’ll never remember how I happened to be standing in view of the front door at that moment. But when the bell rang I had a clear view the twenty feet to the open front door. On the other side of the storm door stood a red-headed young man, athletic looking in a short-sleeve shirt. My memory makes it plaid or red. He was glancing back toward the street. My sister was upstairs getting ready for her date. My parents were not around for some reason, nor were my three brothers.

I opened the door for him. He’d come for my sister. We went into our small living room and I sat down on the couch with him. He talked to me, showed genuine interest in me. I was a little shy, but I liked this guy, this new date of my 18-year-old sister.

He would have been 85 today. He had been in decline since my sister’s death, September 23, 2016. They had been living just south of where I’ve put myself now in Florida. I expected to see a good deal of him after moving her two years ago. I saw him only twice. The pandemic saw to that. He was not the strong, vigorous, vital man we all had known, mostly wheelchair bound.

I prayed for him exclusively today at Mass. I miss him. His children miss him the most.

And if I dwell on that long-ago moment in that little house, I think sadly of how very, very long ago it was, and how much has gone and how many have gone and how little lies ahead.

He was a stranger until that moment. I have many very special sisters-in-law. But Joe O’Hara was the first new member of the family — am I right?


On that very day, somewhere, maybe houses away, or just blocks away, memories and personal epochs were ending for someone. Just moments and perhaps block from here now, people who will be together for fifty years into this century, long after I’m gone, are just meeting. New stories are beginning. On and on and over and over it goes. Time.

I should stop here…..all so prosaic. Another time.

Happy birthday, Joe.



In the afternoon they came unto a land

In which it seemed always afternoon.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Lotus-Eaters

Man looking into the sea,

taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have to yourself,

it is human nature to stand in the middle of things,

but you cannot stand in the middle of this;

the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.

–Marianne Moore

A Grave

Twilight. Quiet. Good. This was yesterday.

I stood in the small yard behind the modular dwelling that has been home now for two years. Not the sea, not a grave. I stand, content more or less, at the top of a gently tilting coarse, small patch of bahia grass where the dogs can probe. It is good. I am fortunate. There are no dogs now, just me. I prefer the soft lawns of the north. But this is Florida, longed for and embraced by thousands monthly; escapees. It has been colonized; it has organized our discontent.

I should be feeling at home by now. But, I’m still a visitor. That’s my choice. Let’s face it. Where to now?





Don’t move!

Stand here!

A Tuesday evening, Florida October. Two years. Some peace here, in this quiet moment.

Those two years dissolved rather than passed. The pandemic worked to blunt the rejoining of old human connections and block new ones. It was the same for all.

As for the years, the same with the two before. Gone quickly. In that, the years were like, not the sea, but like standing water in a gutter. Here, then gone. Evaporated.

I think of Sanibel, the beaches. There is wild, coarse beauty here among the steel projectiles and concrete jutting up.

You can stand in the middle of nothing. Make a sea of it.

I have been north recently; cool air, leaves dry and ready to turn. Another world. It’s not better or worse. It just is, like this world. Okay, better while you longed for the return of the moment you chose, for whatever reason, to try Florida again, fearing it was the geographic cure — again. Thinking maybe you’d reconsider.

It’s all — the world.

But it felt better up there. A little more permanent, more real. It felt closer to home, wherever….It felt familiar, but almost too familiar. I realized, with a sinking heart, what it is that made it so easy to flee to the south; to believe it would be different, even better. That it need not be forever.

But forever has drawn closer, like a serpent in the grass.

Here I am.

The air, finally, was once again, as happens eventually this time of year in Florida, cooler. Less humid. Not the scorching and sodden semi-tropical miasma that envelops the peninsula beginning in mid-May. I’d never noticed it so much in the past. But there was more of a future ahead, more time to think this was only temporary. I must still think that. Sorry, but I must. Yet I’m in no hurry…why? Where is it that much better? It could be worse.

Autumn, such as it is, is upon the southern world. With its autumn thoughts. I usually run through these thoughts in September. Late onset this year.

Things, actually, seem to be standing still.

It was the early onset of twilight and the western glow brightened, high up, even the breast of the west-facing mockingbird sitting silent and solitary on the overhead wire that runs the length of the yards behind these vinyl and metal homes. I loved it that that bird was there. Usually, the mockingbirds chorus unceasingly and wildly, talking almost. This one was silent.

Maybe,come to think if it, it was a dove. A young dove,.

The Brazilian pepper, green and full, has risen up and begun once again to push heavily against the tilting , weathered stockade fence. They obscure the chain link fences and the warehouses and garages and blacktop beyond. Yes, they are invasive and unruly but on this evening, they masked those ugly roadside realities, leaving, just beyond them, the sunset gold., just barely visible. Far, far overhead, large mauve-tainted scattered clouds were floating, brushed pink underneath, catching the setting sun. They were beautiful. It were as if rain clouds had broken up.

Gone, at least on this Tuesday, were the mountainous clouds that often bring sudden, violent storms during late Florida summer afternoons. I actually love those clouds, too. It’s just the heat….that heat. And fear of violence.

But it’s going. The year is going.

I was by the grill, cooking chicken. There I was, and here I am.