ADVENT AGAIN

The endless beginnings: “the ways deep and the weather sharp…” (“Journey of the Magi”), or, for me for the last three years: the way soggy, because I dwell in the sub-tropics.

“I was glad when they said to me: ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.'”

On 12/1/14 at 10:09 p.m.. I wrote of a “crisis of will.” On 12/13, hour unknown, probably night, I d bright-yellow highlighted in a book the need to be “attentive to our personal prayers.” In 2013, hour unknown, I’d noted the danger of ” the dwindling and cooling of our desire for sanctity.”

Saintliness? Must I? Me? Get real!

Yeah. And that’s the point: Reality.

The reality of our situation in this valley of tears, valley of darkness. (“You better watch out. You better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why…..”)

Love saves us. Love and mercy. Advent. He is coming….

Santa, Old Saint Nick, is, of course, a kind of a stand-in for the true Deliverer, That babe of humble estate. For millions, both the babe in the manger and the Big Fellow in the Red Suit coming down the chimney are myths. of equal incredulity. Don’t we know it. The evidence of our faithlessness is all around us. Even that one encountered in prayer and crisis, forever King, foewcwe merciful, but expecting much of us, our father full of love and mercy., so we are told, so we must believe, and begin to believe when we consider all the bitter, empty other possibilities.

Advent. You better watch out….

I would read, paragraphs later in that prayer book, “for he is to come, he will not delay” among the Advent Antaphons. In 2012, I read that the growth of our Christian life is obstructed and hindered by “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” I John 2:16.

I’ll say!

Believe. Look at us, helpless, pitiable… Waiting. For centuries.

What I recall, year to year, is everydayness, things unchanged in all those centuries. I just took out the garbage again. I stay mired in…Situations. In sin.

On a bookmark dated Christmas, 1987, from friend and mentor, Rev. J.L. Donovan: “St. Paul tells the Ephesians 2:14 “He” is our peace. He reconciles our unconsious and conscious. He speaks to us from within ourselves. I hope this book becomes a “vade mecum” of your own quest for Peace.”

The book was a collection of the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, in which we find examples of the depth-charging syntax Hopkins used over and over to write, for instance, of “God’s Grandeur”, “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil/ It gathers to greatness, like the ooze of oil. Crushed.”

G.M. Hopkins died in 1899 and is buried in Dublin. J.L. Donovan died in 2019 and is buried in the hill above my parents in Boston. Both the poet and the priest told us we live forever.

But for now — we are’ ‘on a darkling plain where ignorant armies clash by night.” Old Matthew Arnold amid his prolong doubt and despair could not fathom the isolated piety of the monks sequestered far up in the Alps at the Carthusian monastery of the Grand Chartrreuse (yes, where the monks make the yellow liqueur). Arnold went on wandering between two worlds, the one dead/The other powerless to be born. The year was 1855.

We’ve gone on wandering between those two worlds, through two World Wars, living in fear of a Third.

Advent. When Frosty and Santa appear on lawns, sometimes in illuminated plastic, sometimes (especially or Frosty) in great white balls of Styrofoam.

Joy. Sin all around.

About this time last year, a young girl cut me off in traffic and responded to my gentle toot with an obscene gesture which she kept displaying for about a block. She’s a year older now. I wonder if any wiser. Am I? Do such things bother me? Do I do such things? It was Advent. I wanted to break her finger. I wished her a Merry Christmas

All civilizaton, all history is Advent. He Is Coming, sometime. Coming always.

Sin and evil abide, like traffic. Like surly, obscene, embittered teenagers.

Abides in me. Am I wrong that some of the worst crimes I remember were committed in Advent? Again, all time is Advent. The Evil One is always busy. So my mentors Hopkins and Donovan would remind me.

He is coming….

Enough. Pray like crazy. Get ready. Again. Change. Above all change. Pray I change. I’ve already had one sinful argument this morning.

Yes, I’m talking to myself. I was talking to myself as I took out the garbage — again.

But it’s Advent again.

I go on talking to myself, but I must make that talk into prayer.

Pray. Pray….without ceasing. Pesevere to the end.

It’s Advent again.

THOSE ROUGH BEASTS…

…..I speak, in this case, of political attack ads, so grim and unforgiving, never sublime, always ridiculous… they have finally skulked off our TV flatscreens and vanished from our parlors and our hearing. But, oh, the animus is out there, lurking, waiting for their hour to come round again….

They were a sign, and a tedious one, of the times. Now, that First Tuesday is gone. The controversies, especially over elections and ballots, will take longer to subside. Let’s forget about it for a while just the same. At least for this peaceful Sunday.

Let’s sing of November, the month in which we are called upon to remember and pray for the faithful departed. Always, perhaps except in sunny Florida, this month does pierce the heart with its sharp shadows and memories, as they begin to swarm as the year draws to a close. “Time is the fire in which we burn” – Delmore Schwartz.

It is the month, at the end of which –about fourteen months after the second Great War ended and the troops came home and the lights came on again, all over the world,” (as the song goes.) — that I was born.

In Florida, heat and humidity persist and disorient. But with that northern soul Melville, I allow it to be “a damp, drizzly November in (MY) soul,”too. and why not? There have been spells of rain here in the sub-tropics, and the storm called Nicole that ravaged the eastern coast of Florida, sent torrents of rain to Tampa Bay. I welcomed the rain for the peaceful way it made me feel on a Saturday morning. I mourn the horrible losses of fellow Americans along the coast. The sea and the wind, like death, came like a thief in the night, killing property; thankfully not, for the most part, killing any people.

The sun and humidity should never linger this long — not into November. There should be no hurricanes in November. But, as they say, it is what it is. Or was.

Let me forget about politics and storms for the moment. The gospel for this day, and the priest at mass this morning reminded us that we cannot forget about death; and November, in which I was born, is, nonetheless, the month of the dead.

John Donne, preaching at Whitehall in 1631, offered a consolation to the soul “against the dying life and living death of the body.” And this, some thirty odd years before The Great Plague of London and centuries of catastrophes.” (Maybe he saw it coming. You’re never going to be wrong seeing plagues and all things resmbling plagues coming your way, it seems.)

“There we leave you,” the Dean of St. Paul’s wrote, ” in that blessed dependency to hang upon him who hangs upon the cross.” (Ole John D. sure sounds Catholic and was Roman until 2015, I believe. He should have stayed the course., a guy who could write so fervidly and hopefully of “an ascension into that kingdom, which he (meaning Christ) has purchased for us with the inestimable price of his uncorruptible blood….”

Amen

And so, like you, John, I’ll “never send to know for whom the bell tolls.”

And, in this month of prayer and remembering, I will go on remembering, and praying for, among many others, my grand nephew Thomas Bailey of Winthrop, Mass., only 19, dead four months tomorrow.

“Death Be Not Proud,” wrote John Dunne after a crushing loss.

To think I began this writing of, of all things, political TV ads. Gone with the (November) wind.

And good riddance, your sour screen gremlins.

THAT NIGHT, THE MUSIC, MY FATHER….REGRETS….

Don’t recall my age, don’t know where I and my parents were coming from, or how it happened that we were listening to classical music, but something came on the radio that enthralled me. It was after dark, that I recall.

I was, perhaps, ten years old. I asked to stay in the car in the driveway listening to the piece — and, no, I don’t recall what piece of music it was. But I lay across the seat listening. Then my father came out to say he’d found the radio station on which the piece was playing, but I said, no, Dad, I’d like to stay here, listening to it. (Was the engine on? Was I wearing down the battery?) Dad said, okay. It must have mystified but perhaps delighted him that I should love a piece of classical music so much — he who’s taste in music ran almost exclusively to Lawrence Welk and who liked only “nice, smooth music…” but who loved the “Warsaw Concerto” and owned it on a red, translucent .45 disc and listened to it repeatedly and hated it that, in the Hitchcock movie, “The Man Who Knew Too Much”(one of the very few movies we saw together) the attempted assassination inside the opera house interrupted the beautiful music in progress….

No, I don’t recall the title of the music or anything about it. But I can see my father, in his kind tolerance, walking out of our house and coming out to the driveway to the youngest son who came seven years after the other children and who mystified him and with whom he had an overly formal and perhaps distant relationship. I see him before that, inside our house, going to the trouble to find that radio station, only to have me say I’d rather stay in the car, of all places, and keep listening.

Thank you, Dad. For that moment, Forgive me for not loving and appareciating you more during your too short life. And how I wish I had gone on developing, truly developing that love of the greatest music, not the pop idyles of the pedestrian hours over all the years, and stayed with the piano, sunk down into life’s riches where all things truly worthy of loving and learning live.

DEATH COMES FOR THE CATHEDRAL

Or, La mort des cathedrales…

None other than Marcel Proust, writing in Le Figaro in 1904, worried about the future fate of the beautiful cathedrals that dot the French landscape. He wrote (translated from the French, obviously):

“Suppose for a moment that Catholicism had been dead for centuries, that the traditions of its worship had been lost. Only the unspeaking and forlorn cathedrals remain; they have become unintelligible yet remain admirable.”

There was, at the time, a raging political and religious debate over “the Briand bill,” a parliamentary proposal which imperiled the fate of French Cathedrals — those “first and perfect masterpieces” of Gothic architecture.

The author of Recherche Le Temp Perdu (In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past) was fearful that “France would be transformed into a shore where giant chiseled conches seemed to have run around, empied of the life that inhabited them and no longer bring an attentive ear to the distant murmer of the past, simply museum objects themselves frozen.”

The frozen future is here. It’s coming to America.

THE WOMAN ON THE TOKYO TRAIN

This is about the woman, a young woman, that I saw on the Tokyo commuter rail taking me from busy Tokyo station to the station where I would catch a taxi back to Tachikawa Air Base. That’s where I was staying in a pleasant little, single-person dwelling on the base during a two-week temporary duty leave. In truth, “temporary duty leave” was merely the technical designation for the trip a military member might make from their base in Korea to Japan for, essentially, a vacation. For some it might be for duty. For me and others, it was just a two-week vacation, a break.

As I recall it was rush hour. I’d gone into Tokyo just to look around. I could not begin to recall just where I went or what I did on that particular day. It was September, 1970. I was a standing strap-hanger in a nearly full, though not jam-packed car. Japanese trains were clean, in my memory, and commuters polite, perhaps especially to a non-Japanese visitor. But I did not interact with anyone on this particular trip. I was glad it wasn’t more crowded.

Meanwhile, the train sped through the sprawling miles of densely packed fringes of metropolitan Tokyo, all fascinatingly terraced or stacked to accommodate one of the most populous cities in the world. I don’t recall, on that particular trip –standing in the middle as I was — much of what we passed. None of it, really. My eyes were fixed on the people and I only recall that young woman

She was sitting right before me. She was wearing a light top coat. She was somewhat heavy set, had long black hair. Her eyes were downcast. Never once did I see her look up. She was pressed in between other commuters and they would rise to get off, others would sit down — at least I seem to remember that. That would be the likely flow of traffic on a commuteer train.

The point is that she never once looked up, paid no attention to the movement around her — not at every stop where her body and the bodies of those beside her might sway barely perceptibly with the inertia of the train slowing, stopping, then starting up again. She was unmoving; she just stared down. There might have been a purse on her lap, her hands folded around it.

Then I noticed a tear streaming down her cheek. Then another…and another…. She did not wipe them away. She was immersed in a private sorrow and did not wish it to be known or to be observed. But, of course, I was observing this and wondered, why — why was she crying? I didn’t get the sense anyone on either side of her noticed that she was crying. (Perhaps they did and, in polite Japanese fashion, ignored the fact.) What was laying on the mind and heart of this young woman, perhaps a little older than me, perhaps headed home from work in Tokyo, for whom this commute might have been a daily routine while for me it was part of a joyous, solitary, exotic adventure in a strange land? I would not pass this way again, not likely. I haven’t been back to Japan….I recall and certainly have forgotten many details about those two weeks, visiting monuments and famous streets. I have not forgotten this small moment.

I could only surmise at the cause of her sorrow: trouble at work, trouble at home, broken romance, a death in the family, or of a friend, a bad medical diagnosis….

Of course, for some, a nameless but intense melancholy can come unexpectedly and overwhelm every other emotion unexpectedly. Like a tsunami…

In overly idle moments before this same laptop, I have recently watched on Youtube wobbly, terrifying cell phone video of a tsunami overwhelming Japanese seafront neighborhoods, people in shock, shouting and running for their lives, boats, cars and houses being swept away. Massive catastrophe, massive terror and sorrow. It is not, please God, likely that most of us in America will experience that particular character of catastrope in our lifetime. Such hazards are most often a potential reality for people living in South Asian regions where many of us Americans could only imagine living. But then — earthquakes that trigger tsunamie could strike either coast, especially the California coast….

And here in America, this summer– and even in the last couple of days — there have been sudden, extraordinary, deadly wild fires to the west, cutting through neighborhoods, consuming houses in minuters, trapping and killing people. And the floods! Horrible flooding in Kentucky. Shocking, unexpected, life destroying and mind-altering misfortunes that change lives forever. …

But I feel this was no grand sorrow I was witnessing on that Tokyo train. Just one of life penetrating small sorrows. But enough to make this young woman sit quietly crying on a public conveyance.

On that Tokyo train, where east was meeting west in that moment, everything, including the way people interact or register joy or sorrow, might well have been conditions by culturally distinct conventions and therefore be different from anything I might have recognized or expected. But here I felt sure I was seeing a quietly crying woman who could have been any one of us.

Should I have tapped her shoulder, given a wordless, trans-cultural expression of sympathy? No, that plainly would have been wrong. She clearly did not want that attention — would have been embarrassed.

When the train reached my stop, she was, if I recall accurately, more alone on that long train seat, eyes still cast downward, unmoving. Wherever she was going, it was farther out in the suburbs than where I was going. What if I’d had a sprig of flowers! (Ridiculous notion!) What if I could have dropped it in her lap before I moved to the door? Seen her glance up at my departing form, smiling…? This is almost vanity to think such things!

But again…

What if I had spoke Japanese –many westerners in Japan do — and could have leaned over and uttered some consoling word in her ear?

For all I know, this normally laudable American entiment might have violated some Asian shibbolith — who knows? Whatever…

This was fifty-two years ago this month. I didn’t mean to write so much about it. A simple sorrow, simply observed would have been better.

But I hope that was the most transitory of sorrows for that young woman. Who knows? Perhaps it had lifted and vanished by the time she reached her destination. A good little cry, and it was over. I hope so. I hope, if she’s still alive, she has had a happy, fulfilling life.

Living or dead, I’m thinking of her, obviouly. And praying for her. And while I remember the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, The Ginza…I will also always remember the young woman on the Tokyo train.

1 SEPTEMBER, 1970

Dear Mom,

It is Tuesday night and it’s raining like crazy. I’m typing in the orderly room and I hear rain beating down on the roof. Our switchboard operator is listening to the radio. The televison blew up the other night. All this sounds dull I know but I’m quite content.

Peggy wrote me a nice letter, says, what is all this stuff about danger? If it’s actually worring you, mom, let me say that I’m hardly in any danger out here. This is not a vital military area, was never contested in the war and, while there are lots of Korean Marines here , there are no American fighing units within several miles. (Don’t worry — if we needed anything, there’s always the Air Force and these R.O.K. Marines are rough and tought and a wild bunch — good fighters. Our nearest American units are a 7-man U.S. Marine Advisory detatchment just across the bridge on the mainland, a Hawk Missile batterey about twenty miles down that miserable dirt road, then there is the whole General Support complex in the Seoul area, the Second and Seventh Infantry Divisions (the actual fighting units) are located on the central part of the DMZ (inland). This is where things sometimes get hot and dangerous and where incidents occur….oh, yes, we have infiltrators comong on the island. But I’m as unaware of that as you are that someone right now is being murdered in Neponset Circle. I’m far safer here than I’d probably be at Time Square and 42nd Street, or walking across Boston Common at night looking like I have a few dollars in my wallet….We all have our hiding places picked….This is an interesting and fairly attractive area — not the treeless, barbed wire DMZ. This is about as close as you can get to the enemy without having much motive to feel endangered…The only way it’s dangerous is because the road is rough and you might land in a rice paddy if y ou’re not careful and there are women and chidren and dogs and oxen ad ducks and chicken every inch of the way. I make it an adventure. I’m looking for the smoothest possible ride on the worst possible road.

You mentioned typhoon season. We caught the tail of one last night that came in off the Yellow Sea. I’m afraid I caught it worst of all riding back from Seoul in an open jeep. This rain tonight might be a hangover from the big storm which is gone farther out to sea now as far as I know.

End of September 1. I’m tired and I’m going to brave the rain down to the barracks and to my warm bunk. The rain’s really beating down now.

More about typhoons, etc., tomorrow.

Love, Greg

MARK IS 60

My nephew Mark O’Hara, young, it seemed, just yesterday, turned 60 today. He was born August 25, 1962. On that night ( believe he was born at night), I was sitting on Jimmy Sweeney’s back steps on McKone Street, Dorchester, watching some kids play cards and thinking how I didn’t seem to have the gumption to join in. Would I look like someone who didn’t know how to play cards? How did the word get to me that I was an uncle again? Did I already know this fact? This was my sister’s fourth child. She would have one more, Kathy, in February, 1964.

As for Jimmy Sweeney, who, like me, was 16, my memory moves to an early summer’s day the following year. I joined him and, I think, Peter Ivans and Billy Martin and maybe somebody else in a walk across an empty field and under the Southeast Expressway from the First Boston 10-Pin Bowling Alley. It was dark, but we were going to go swimming. I was always trying to fit in. And I really didn’t quite fit in.

Jimmy was talking about the girls that hung out with us. He had Kathy Graham from Westglow Street as a girlfriend in those days. It’s interesting. I’d had a crush on Kathy in the 6th grade. Jimmy was talking spiritedly about how “they (the girls) wanted “it” but were afraid of it.” I think all of us were afraid of “it” in those days. I’m not even sure, being very naive and sheltered, that I was sure what “it” was. And none of us, I suspect, had had “it” at that point and my own sense was that “it” was something you had only under sacred, marital circumstances. My reticense on that score was extreme. I was afraid of “it”, too, I guess. (It would be about six years before –under very non-marital, immoral circumstances — “it” came about for me — that circumstances would converge in my restive, advancing, virginal life that I would, for pay, in the tenderloin called An Jung-ri outside the gates of Camp Humphrey, Pyong-Taek, Republic of Korea — partake of “it”, twice in one night. It was a terrible way to be introduced to something so sacred.

But there we were, about four of us, walking over to Tenean Beach,our little city beach, in the dark, Jimmy talking about “it.”

Once there, once in our bathing suits that must have been under our clothes, we were all a little skittish about the dark water at fairly high tide in the enclosed urban inlet that was Dorchester Bay whose actual relationship to the reality of the open ocean seemed as remote as a puddle might be to the Great Lakes. It was Jimmy Sweeney who suddenly, boldly made for the water, running and spashing up to his waist, then diving. We followed. Then everybody moved over to the high old wooden pilings of the old Lawley Shipyard at the far end of the beach and Jimmy and Peter and others climbed up and I, again typically, stayed in the water below, too timid to climb up and balance on the large, oil-soaked old beam. Somebody said, “it’s okay, don’t worry, stay there” to me. Maybe it was Jimmy. That made me feel better, accepted.

And I guess we dried off — did we have towels? — and that was that. I probably went home. We all went home. It was the night of June 5, 1963, early summer.

The next day I was at my post outside the Elm Farm supermarket down behind my Neponset Avenue house where I loaded groceries in cars. Greg Burke with another kid (don’t recall who) came running across the parking lot and said to me, “Greg, Jimmy Sweeney is dead.”

What?

It was June 6, 1963, my sister Anne’s 4th wedding anniversary. D-Day, too, of course. But it was also the day of the funeral, I believe, for Pope John XIII. Catholic Schools were out. Jimmy Sweeney went to a public school (English). He played hookie to join his Catholic school friends in order to go diving and swimming down at the old remnants of the railroad bridge that once crossed the Neponset River south of the Neponset River Bridge. It’s all gone now, and was fairly dangerous. Jimmy had leaped or dove into the water and one of the other kids –I’ve been told — cannonballed him, just horsing around. There was a collision. Jimmy didn’t come up. It must have been a terrible moment. He must have been knocked unconscious. Police were eventually summoned by someone (who is still around who was there that day?) and a diver named Pasquale pulled Jimmy out of the river. That was according to a small item in the newspaper headlined BRIDGE DIVE KILLS DORCHESTER YOUTH.

But was it a dive, or the dive on top of him? There was a wake and a big funeral and burial at Holyhood Cemetery way off in Brookline, real foreign territory for us Dorchester kids — but it’s where the Kennedy parents are buried, and some of the children, and former Mayor Maurice Tobin, and my maternal grandmother. I’ve never been back to Jimmy’s grave. On the job once, I did show a young phographer the Kennedy grave, impressing him, I’m sure. And I looked for–and found — my grandmother’s grave up the hill.

But that’s the memory thread that comes out when I think of the night of August 25, 1962, the birthday of Mark Aherne, 60 tonight.

It’s midnight, the clock gong is ringing in the parlor. It’s August 26, the day I had my last drink of alcohol in 1987. My 35th anniversary then.

Every day is something, isn’t it?

IN AMERICA…

In America there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is –that is what makes America what it is. –Gertrude Stein

Though popular historiography has stressed the ‘Age of the Robber Barons’ and deplored the gross materialism of the epoch (i.e., the closing decades of the 19th Century), this hostile view is not borne out by the facts, which display a panorama of general progress in which all classes shared and in which all intellectual and cultural interests were abudently displayed — a panorama, indeed, highlighted by the emergence of quintessentially American geniuses.

-Paul Johnson, A History of the American People

Gertrude Stein, probably viewing her homeland from Paris, Brit Paul Johnson viewing it from a nearly equal distance in England. Views of our homeland, over a century or more later keep tumbling and rearranging kaleidoscopically as our social and cultural realities advance or, perhaps, retrogress. Less open space, for sure, more or less materialistic, as ever. People pouring across the border; geniuses, variously engaged in the culture, still seemingly in good supply,quirky Gertrude Stein among them, now a memory. But again, an ex-patriate. We lost people, we gained millions more. We shift about, restless, angry, anxious. America, the Beautifully Open and Complex and Troubled.

Our future uncertain, as ever. God help us.

A “CLOSE” ENCOUNTER OF THE “STARTLING” KIND.

Don’t think you have to watch the whole grainy 16 mm pageant, but I’d like to share a fascinating black & white video fossil I found, to my astonishment, floating around Youtube. It’s from the most memorable, beautiful, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic– though, for me, ultimately complicated, even painful — summer of 1964 in the Great Lakes. I was 17.

I’m not in the video, for various reasons. But I see many familiar young lost faces, spawning a lot of memories. And at least one future-famous person can be seen singing about a brighter tomorrow. She is Glenn Close — you’ll find her about 27 minutes in. (NOTE: the video may start in the middle…just scroll it back to the start and the introduction by the daughter of Cecil B. DeMille. Glenn is the pretty, preppy natural blond next to the older, guitar-strumming blond with the more dramatically blond 60s hairdo.)

This is a full recording of a teenage musical called “Space is So Startling,” performed by attendees of The Conference for Tomorrow’s America, a youth leadership conference held on Mackinac Island, Michigan. (Tomorrow’s America is here, of course, and space is more “startling” than ever. Note the Webb Telescope pictures. But we weren’t destined to live in the perfect moral universe these idealistic teen colleagues of mine were trying to sing into existence 58 summer ago. Just think of the morally complex universe of “Fatal Attraction” etc. that awaited the future Glenn Close.)

Glenn Close was a shy, talented, dedicated WASPY teen from Greenwich, CT. at the time. Along with her parents, she was devoted to the worldwide Moral ReArmament movement, the sponsors of the conference. She and her family left the MRA movement, deciding it was a cult. She rarely speaks of that period of her life. About ten years ago, I managed to contact her father, who was conference physician and a beautiful man. We chatted about those times, briefly. He was writing books, and sent me all of them. He’s now deceased.

I broke away from the conference after two short months — being pressured into leadership roles of a program that seemed superficial and propagandistic, discouraged contrary or questioning attitudes and felt quasi-religous. I already had a religion. I was also falling into deep mourning over the loss of my father who died the day after I gave a speech on behalf of American youth in honor of the late JFK at the end of May. It was that speech that broght me to the attention of conference organizers. The pressure and the grief was crushing me. But there were very good people in the movement, including a pair of Gold Medal Olympic rowers, playwrights, performers. I had many fervid, slightly contentious chats with 19-year-old Catalina Quinn, daughter of Anthony Quinn. Her snarky, precocious 11-year-old sister, upon hearing my name, Greg Wayland, insisted on calling me, “Grey Wasteland.” Ha!

Glenn Close is seen here performing with the Green Glenn Singers. She was the Glenn; the Green was Kathi Green, the tall, ponytailed, daughter of West Side Story orchestrator Johnny Green.

I was, as I said, 17 that summer, headed into my senior year of high school in South Boston. The conference, combined with the death of my father, were life-altering events for me.

Stumbling on this video was, for me, like biting into a madeleine. Suddenly I’m Proust with vivid (if black and white) ghosts all around — and happy, colorful memories, too — being master of ceremonies of a showboat that traveled around to lakefront Michigan cities, and having African-American and Native-American roommates, meeting kids and interesting, multi-ethnic, accomplished adults from around the world, including Ghandi’s grandson. World-battered calebs and swells saw MRA as a lifeboat in their often morally dubious world. It was good in many ways. It morphed into the positive, idealistic traveling show, Up With People! — now also defunct.

Someday I’ll write a book about that summer. Ah..I think I just did. Sorry. Enjoy seeing Glenn and company. (I always hoped I’d get to talk to Glenn about that summer…closest I ever got was the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston at which I was a reporter. She was there, but, alas, our paths never crossed. She is a brilliant actor — and miles and lightyears (speaking of space) from the Straits of Mackinac (pron. Mackinaw).

Here’s the link…posted on YouTube by somebody, I wonder who? Remember, ignore any ad, scroll to the start:

YOUTUB

SORROW COMES

Members of my family are gathered at this hour at a funeral home in Winthrop, Massachusetts where the wake for my 19-year-old grandnephew Thomas Bailey is in progress. He died from an apparent overdose of his anti-depression medicine in the early hours of Wednesday, July 13. I got the call from my brother Ron early the next morning.

I should be there. I want to be there. Florida is feeling like a prison at the moment, a place to which I should never have returned for yet another time. But I’m bound to feel that way at a time like this. Brother Bill is infirm and has been laid up for weeks now in a nursing home. His wife is laid up at Boston Medical Center. Brother Doug is in Denver and at 82, with the expense of air travel, could not possibly make it. I could not afford the air travel or even the road travel and lodging. My niece Kathy has flown up from Florida and my niece Mary Beth is driving up from New York.

Winthrop, that house in Winthrop, also my brother’s house, had always been the locus of family joy and celebration. Now comes this summer tragedy, like a hot, dry wind. Everything is change. And life is moving us all toward difficult places. Brother Bill confined in a nursing facility, no prospect for a homecoming; his wife confined in a Boston hospital.

Life can be like this. We’ve been blessed as a family. Sorrow comes.

It came at mid-summer.

This has been a personal moment.