JANUARY, AGAIN…

It is January 4, 2023. I have that January feeling. It’s not a great feeling. Forgive me if it’s your birthday or anniversary month, but anxiety and a creeping sense of the blahs always overtake me on the morning of January 1. It’s the feeling you get when you get in your old car (mine is a 2015 and I’m reminded that 2015 once felt new) and you prepare to crank the ignition, and hope the old bag of bolts starts up. ( It starts, but the air conditioning has failed. In Florida, no air conditioning in the car amounts to a grand a sweaty case of blahs-on-stilts — i.e., the malaise.

Now for my metaphor: As with my car, it’s that time of year when you turn the key and hope the new year starts. You hope it take you where you want to go. Pretty good, eh? Yeah, just pretty good.

I just read last January’s posts. Very depressing. I hoped for change. It all depended on me. Nothing really changed. But, on the deeply sad end of things, a beloved nephew died suddenly July 13. Then, very, very far down the scale of concern and sadness from that catastrophe was that one of my dogs had to be put down (May 15). This year, some of those I love are very ill and very old. I’m praying.

So, on this early January day… I pray, pray, pray….

I just went out to Lowe’s to buy a new filter for the refrigerator. My Veteran’s discount didn’t apply. It cost me $64. But a new filter was long overdue. There was a little red light giving me that message. Red lights tell us things. And loud buzzes and whining alarms. I’m supposed to change the filter every six months. The packaging for the filter says I am now reducing twenty-eight contaminants and, potentially, they include Atenolol, Carbamazepine, Estrone, Neproxen, Phenytoin, Timethoprim….

And those are just the pharmaceuticals. Funny things — I looked up carbamazepine and it’s used in treating seizures and bipolar disorder. I guess the chemical hasn’t been concocted in the world’s labs that doesn’t start out having great uses before it becomes a poison. It’s like the worst things we ever did when we were young — they all started out as fun. (What kind of fun were they having when they cooked up COVID?)

Back to my filter. Waterborne stuff being filtered out might include assorted micro-organisms, or metals, including, of course, lead. The sort of things that have given me kidney stones. Then, the pesticides. Oh, my! By now, reading the packaging for that filter, I’m feeling resigned, as I take my first long sip of water, to let grace and nature take their course. I’m hearing Doris Day singing, C’est sera, sera….whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see…. ( that’s from a very old Hitchcock movie called, The Man who Knew Too Much. Never in my life have I felt I knew too much.)…

What I feel about the water is what I feel about the year. But if I’ve got ickies in my water, well, the pesticides I’ve allegedly filtered out include Atazine, Carbofuran, Endrin, Lindane……and on and on….

I’ve gone my whole life never having heard of any of these things, much less knowing I might be drinking them. We live immersed in dangerous science. We are hypostatic organic systems, in the mind of a future Harvard moral philosopher I once dated. We were in our twenties. I took her for Chinese food ( I believe she was eating vegitarian). I’d been happily, luckily “fixed up” with her by old, distant friends met during a summer working in the Sierra Nevada while a college student. (Ah, times lost, memories….etc.) Speaking of luck, the future philosopher and I dined at a place in Cambridge called, The Lucky Garden.

For much of our lives, we dream of living in a Lucky Garden. We don’t necessarily think much about heaven, and sure as hell don’t think much about hell. We just hope we’re lucky. (I believe the current MegaMillions jackpot is at $940 Million. Imagine a couple of folks in a little woodframed bungalo on Main Street coming into that kind of dough? Or you? Or me? The total budget for the city of Largo, Florida (where I currently reside) is $309.7 million, up 18% from last year. The population (last year, anyway) was 82, 381. I’ll bet that will rise, too, especially after this winter. But just think, I’m just a digit and still feeling very much like an alien in the subtropics. Like a roaming hypostatic organic system. A white Anglo-x. Three years ago, I reduced the population of Lancaster, Mass by one. (Did they miss me?) But I’m a restless digit, a restless hypostatic organic system. I’d like to re-increase Lancaster’s population — and Largo’s population only in the cool months.

Now, if I could only kill off the January mosquito that has somehow managed to spawn and commenced to whine about my ears. Where’s a little Atazine or Carbofuran when I need it? It would be ironic, right?, if pesticides in my water got me and the mosquito went on happily whining about. But my bug guy tells me mosquitos only live twelve hours. It seems like, in the eleventh hour, they always manage to bite me, then, like Simeon, go happily to their death with a load of my Type O blood in their tank. And every night, a barely visible little — I mean little — cohort of sugar ants can be found floating in the tank to my Keurig. Not in the sugar bowl, mind you, but in the Keurig. Go figure. Water again. Where’s the filter in my Keuric?! Or, here’s where a little poison in the water might help. The average cup of coffee probably brings us micro-chemicals out of Brazil, just for taste. Who knows?

My next purchase must be an evapcore for my failed car air conditioner. Even in January, you don’t want to be without air air conditioning in Florida. (Temperature today, 82 degrees, and, damn it, a trifle muggy.)

I’ve been quoted a price of $1230 to fix the A/C. Now, if I could just win the lottery….It might ease the blahs. Or maybe they’ll invent a filter to filter out the blahs.

But I’m guess I’m bound to confound all this snarky January ruminating and say the only times I succeed in filtering out the blahs is by praying. And the only lottery I really want to win is the one that brings me –and the world — peace. True peace. In January, and the whole year through.

I’ll end on that preposition. (Or, is it an adverb?)

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 flat (because I dwell in Florida), and the weather soggy (because it is the sub-tropics). It is still a hard journey. There, now and then, comes a chill, a deep cold, a wind, a soul-scouring inner storm and turmoil. In Advent, we pray for sun and calm and we hope….

I was glad when they said to me: ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ So, accordng to Psalm 121, did the pilgrims of old chant as they approached the holy city of Jerusalem.

Those journeys, to Bethlehem, to Jerusalem, were always hard.

I’ve just had another birthday. I’ve gone far in this journey. I’ve been lazy, strayed from the path, only to find the way harder than it most certainly would have been had I stayed the course, stuck to the pilgrim path. The Way……

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. Life on life’s terms and God’s terms…

The reality of our situation in this vale of tears, this 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….

Year after year, season after season, I fail to vault over big, abiding obstacles in my life. I thought it would be last year. Last year, I thought it would be the year before. And so on and on, that mountain an infinite regression in my rearview mirror….and the years have passed….

In this season, since childhood, into adulthood, the culture’s inflatable images of Santa, Old Saint Nick, are, of course, a kind of a subliminal 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. In England, and probably here, non-Christians now greatly outnumber believers. Don’t we know it. The evidence of our faithlessness is all around us. Well hidden is that One encountered in prayer and crisis, forever King, forever 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.

Now, to my ears and written down before my eyes, all the above reads and sounds like vapid, prayerbook pretend-piety. Small wonder no one is listening. At my church, much as I love much that I see and hear and all whom I meet there, I cringe when we sing the “modern” Gloria. It’s in 3/4 time, like a waltz, and accompanied by the pipe organ in up-and-down herdy-gerdy carnival style. The herdy-gloria Gloria. (Don’t mean to be such a critic, but, in my experience, the deepest piety is inspired by solemn, polyphonic, decidedly serious but no less joyous and ancient chords, either sung or merely heard. But — I must be humble, charitable and open. That just my preference. In a way, it might be best to encounter God in silence. It’s all about grace….and a soul-healthy ‘fear of the Lord…’

Fear of the Lord. Advent. You better watch out….

And love, of course. God is love. So we are told and so I believe. For many years, as a late teenager, I doubted it all. Then I was told that a thousand difficulties do not constitute one single doubt. (accoding to St. John Henry Newman). We have only to keep chipping away at the difficulties, as we might at a rock or any other obstacle in our path. I know I made this point to my late sister, who always seemed to insist she could not delve far into the faith, “because I question” I think she feared her probing would somehow confirm her doubts, that there was no possibility it might, instead, affirm or give birth to her faith. I told her much of St. Augustine’s Confessions was written in the form of questions. She never seemed to be convinced — not in this life. Now, unlike me, she knows the answer to every question. Her earthly birthday was at the outset of Advent: December 1. I pray for her and, throughout November, prayed for all the faithful departed.

But back to that prayerbook of mine….

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 rocky obstacles that are “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, waiting.

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. In cowardice and damnable life habits of thought and action. In garbage.

On a bookmark dated Christmas, 1987, from friend and mentor, Rev. J.L. Donovan wrote: “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 for which this was the bookmark was a collection of the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ( a 19th Century Jesuit whose works are celebrated by poets of every era since, be they secular or religious). In Hopkins’s poems we find examples of the depth-charging syntax he 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 the grave of parents, sister and brother-in-law in Boston. Both the poet and the priest told us we will live forever. It is what Christ told us.

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, hard or inflatable; sometimes (especially or Frosty) in great white balls of Styrofoam.

Joy. Sin all around. We are children forever; forever williing to be awed by the delightfully kitchy. And that’s good.

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 still bother me? Do I do such things myself?

It was Advent. I wanted to break her finger. I silently wished her a Merry Christmas she could not hear.

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, and busiest in holy seasons. 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. Persevere 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.

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.

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.

BELIEF

And what, then, is belief? It is the demi-cadence which closes a musical phrase in the symphony of our intellectual life.

American philosoper Charles Sanders Peirce, from How to Make Our Ideas Clear

The word “God,” so “capitalised” (as we Americans say), is the definable proper name, signifying Ens necessarium*; in my belief, really creator of all three Universes of Experience.

*Necessary Being

Charles Sanders Peirce, A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God, 1908

MAY’S BEGINNING, POEM’S BEGINNING, NO SPECIAL RELEVANCE

Between me and the sunset, like a dome

Against the glory of a world on fire,

Now burned a sudden hill,

Bleak, round, and high, by flame-lit height made higher,

With nothing on it for the flame to kill

Save one who moved and was alone up there

To loom before the chaos and the glare

As if he were the last god going home

Unto his last desire.

-“Man Against The Sky”

-Edward Arlington Robinson

APRIL

The end of April, actually. 2022. Every kind of feeling, every memory, fear, regret, maybe hope.

There was a lilac behind our house on Neponset Avenue. It bloomed about now. Someone pulled it up, gone. Also the swamp maple my brother Doug decided to plant, supported by a broom stick when it was new and fragile. It grew and grew. It’s gone.

April, the cruellest month. So said the poet. Months, every month can be cruel.

Those gone, not forgotten. Missed. The wind chime jangles gently. It is cold up north. I took Diane to the airport before dawn. She texted, “cold, Wry very cold.” She probably meant, “Very, very….” But wry. That says it, too.

Someone posted an old Ch 12 WPRI, Providence newscast on FB — Monday, March 30, 1987. That was four months before I arrived there after my time at Channel 7/ Boston. I was noon anchor. It was a good two years, though I’d expected to be at Channel 7 for the rest of my career. It did not work out that way.

I am missing a reunion of broadcast people in my old neighborhood this Saturday night. I am sad at that. But my solitude here — maybe at last I can sort out some things. Aren’t we always trying to sort out things?

Monday, March 30, 1987. The edge of a lost April. “Boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The past in which that was written is far, far past.

I walked alone in the nature preserve, exotic birds near me, hot, breezy.

I try to call my brother Bill in his confinement, aging, infirm yet, my sister-in-law tells me, in good spirits, having come back from the hospital , recovering –thank God — from a bout with a mild strain of the Covid virus.

Thank you, God, for everything.

I must make spring feel better than this, even if no roses are blooming in Ukraine.

April this year is on the edge of sorrow. Sadness.