that was the season that wasn’t

Yesterday was the end of the San Francisco Giants 2013 season. What a disaster compared to the 2012 season when they came back from the brink more than once to win it all. Basically the same team with nothing like the same performance. Why? Maybe it was hubris and overconfidence after the World Series win. Maybe it was sloppiness because of that. Maybe it was several players participating in the World Baseball Classic in the spring. General Manager Brian Sabean said much of the problem was due to lack of depth in the face of injuries to key players. I don’t know, but I’m disappointed, and yes, a tad sad.

I should be pleased that the Athletics won the AL West, but honestly, I don’t much care. I used to be an equal-opportunity Bay Area baseball fan. No more. Maybe it’s the screwing up the Coliseum for baseball with the construction of Mt. Davis when the Raiders returned to Oakland. Maybe it’s the fact, after having switched from satellite to cable a couple of years ago, that we don’t get the sports channel that carries the A’s, and the fact that we can barely get the signal for the A’s radio station. Or maybe I’m just a National League kind of guy. Bottom line, I just haven’t been paying attention to the Athletics.

So why, then, the Giants horrible season? Maybe the explanation above is sufficient, or maybe it’s something more sinister.

I think back to 2011, after the World Series win of 2010, and the travails the Giants had that year including the season-ending collision at home plate for Buster Posey. A Bay Area columnist wrote a very funny piece about the devil collecting on the deal that allowed them to win in 2010, à la the classic musical Damn Yankees.

So maybe it’s the same thing this year? I don’t believe in such things, of course, but it makes as much sense as any of my explanations above.

And Dodger fans, please stop gloating. Point taken. As the great Susan Russell has said, baseball will teach you humility.

Sacred Music Friday: Benedictus

Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benedictus, Choir of St. Michael at the North Gate, Oxford City Church,

on not judging

From Thomas Merton, courtesy of the folks at Charter for Compassion. Easy to say, so very hard to live.

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business, and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.

people unclear on the concept

My Facebook friend and high school classmate Dennis posted a meme on Facebook about tourists in Colorado who were known to ask the ranger, “At what elevation do the deer become elk?” That was bad enough, but a commenter said he used to work for an assistant DA, responsible for prosecuting cases on behalf of the rangers, who thought deer grew up into elk. (Speaking of Colorado, thoughts and prayers for those affected by the flooding in that state. And we grieve at the loss of life there.)

SeaStarThis reminded me of our visits to the Sea Star Cottage at Tomales Bay. The innkeeper told us of someone asking the ranger, “What time is the whale show?” Answer: “Whenever they want.” She also mentioned explaining to someone about the Sea Star, which we love and which sits over the bay at the end of a 50 foot walkway, and how at high tide it was over water, but at low tide there was no water. Question, “How often does this happen?” Um, twice a day? Ya see, that’s how the tides work.

When Terry and I took our Catalina/Ensenada cruise, the cruise director told the story of someone coming up to him while he was sitting on deck having a cup of coffee and saying, “So, what do you think the elevation is here?”

About four decks above sea level, I’d reckon.

what do you mean “of a certain age”?

The blog theKitchn is a nice resource if you don’t mind getting about twenty posts each weekday. There’s posts on recipes and posts about real-world kitchens, some of them very, very cool. Last week they published a review of Mollie Katzen’s new cookbook, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation.

That’s all well and good, of course. But what rankled me was how the review started:

For people of a certain age, Mollie Katzen’s 1970s hand-drawn and lettered cookbooks were the first place they discovered vegetarian cooking…

“Of a certain age?” I beg your pardon.

To be fair, the review actually continued, “…whether as cooks and parents in the kitchen or as children who were raised on food cooked from [Katzen’s early cookbooks].”

But still.

Actually, Molly’s work did not introduce me to vegetarian cooking. That honor fell to the first edition of Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet, which was first published in 1971, and which I bought probably in the fall of 1974. The original Moosewood Cookbook didn’t come out until 1977. (I know because I went downstairs and checked. Somehow I’ve managed to hang on to my originals of both of those.)

So I guess I’m even older than those “of a certain age” referenced in the review. Well, no matter. I’m happy to be sixty and feel good about it.

But I’m not sure that I like being referred to as being of a certain age.

on the Pope Francis interview

The America Magazine interview with Pope Francis got a lot of attention when it was published a couple of weeks ago. And rightly so. It’s a long interview, but as is usually the case the same points got the attention of most of the press, blog posts, and Facebook posts.

Most commentators focused on his statement:

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

and perhaps to a lesser extent his follow-on statement:

We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant.

That was a small part of a long interview, which I have to admit not having read in its entirety.

Still, one can understand the attention paid to this part of the interview, given how the Catholic hierarchy has had a history of focusing on these areas. That Francis seeks a more balanced approach is an encouraging thing.

Secular Music Friday: September Morn

Neil Diamond, September Morn, Live performance at the Aquarius Theatre in Los Angeles, 1988

on the nature of churches

MexicanRestaurantSome years ago my hair stylist made the comment that all the churches in town are alike. I thought that a rather odd comment, and I knew then and know now it not to be true. To visit Gilroy United Methodist Church vs. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, vs. South Valley Community Church vs. Gilroy Presbyterian Church is to have very different experiences. I scratch my head than someone would think otherwise.

But I saw a similar comment recently from a clergyperson I respect, Boston-area Unitarian minister Victoria Weinstein, aka PeaceBang. Her thought process was started by a visit to a local family-owned restaurant. She writes:

I went to get dinner at a little neighborhood Mexican restaurant without thinking of it as a “Mexican” restaurant. I was hungry, and this place is like stopping at a family member’s house for dinner. They’re glad to see you but they don’t get all big deal about it. You sit in the kitcheny living roomy space and wait patiently while dad or mom or sister or grandma cooks up your food, and it’s going to take awhile. The decor isn’t really decor so much as Things We Have On The Walls Because We Like Them, like a big Jesus poster with a prayer in Spanish. For some reason I never thought of it being specifically Mexican food until I got home with it.

I love that image, and we all enjoy supporting such places. But this led her to a conclusion with which I don’t agree:

It made me think about churches that obsess about branding and denominational identity. I think that people need to be able to go to their neighborhood church and just be fed.

I really don’t believe it works that way.

Some people love being part of charismatic churches where the congregation sings praise songs with hands raised in the air. For myself, I find that uncomfortable, bordering upon creepy. But this works for many people. For many, the Methodist routine of a set order of service with hymns, scripture readings, a choir anthem, and a sermon works very well.

Episcopal worship includes all of the above, but also includes Communion. You know how important that is to me. But a friend of mine and her husband attend the Methodist church in the town up the road. Most Methodist churches have Communion once a quarter. Way too infrequently for me. But she and her husband are part of the recovery community and the husband simply skips church on those Sundays.

Different things work for different people. A church is not like a neighborhood polling place or even a neighborhood family-owned restaurant. One size does not fit all.

the right decision

Last month I wrote about having made the decision to switch doctors so I was seeing a physician at a clinic in my medical group that was closer and easier to get to. Of course when one makes such a decision one often second-guesses oneself, which I did a certain amount of. It turns out though, that I made the right decision.

stethescopeThe new clinic is much smaller than the old, and hence the lab is much smaller. But that also means fewer patients waiting. Rather than having to wait an hour and end up getting an extern (as they call them) who has difficulty with my hard-to-find veins and ends up having to go to an experienced technician for help, I waited just a few minutes and got an experienced technician who had me in and out of there before I knew it.

As for my new primary care physician, he was thorough and straightforward. He asked a lot of questions, listened to my answers, and made suggestions. He commended me on my exercise routine. There was no lecturing and no bragging about his stellar healthy vegetarian lifestyle and gym regimen as I got from my previous doctor. He understood my work situation, the company I work for, and the high-tech industry, something my previous doctor never seemed to be in touch with.

I guess I did indeed make the right decision.

Out of the Vinyl Deeps

A book review and a Pitzer College recollection

vinyldeepsOut of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music
Ellen Willis
Kindle Edition $13.81
Paperback $16.26

If you remember the rock music of the 1970’s, this book will be a trip down memory lane. Willis was music critic for The New Yorker and wrote for other publications as well. She died in 2006, but this anthology was put together with the help of her daughter. Willis writes about the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Moby Grape, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin (in one essay comparing the pre-Big Brother and the Holding Company Joplin to the Joplin who sang with that group), and others. Essays come from as early as 1968 and as late as 1980, but most of them overlap with my years at Pitzer, 1971 to 1975. Since the month of publication was also included with each essay (September 1971, March 1973) the book also took me through my residence hall sojourn at Pitzer.

PitzerftnsmI hope you’ll indulge me as I recall that journey.

  • Fall 1971 — Corridor A1 in Sanborn Hall, an all-male all-freshman corridor.
  • Spring 1972 — Corridor C1 in Sanborn Hall, a co-ed corridor where I had Todd as my roommate, with Sue and Leslie across the hall.
  • Fall 1972 — Holden Hall, I believe it was corridor L1. Dario was my roommate.
  • Spring 1973 — Back to Sanborn A1, now all black men except for me and the guys on the other side of the bathroom. It was noisy, but it was a double room I had to myself.
  • All of 1973 – 1974 — A suite in Mead Hall several of us put together which we called the quiet suite and where we all got along nicely, except for the brief stay of one interloper.
  • All of 1974 – 1975 — A room off campus in a big old house on College Avenue, a place I still look on with great affection.

That’s it. I had to get this out of my system. So thank you for indulging me.